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UC College of Law center to be renamed in honor of civil rights icon Nathaniel R. Jones

The college will rename its Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice in honor of the civil rights leader, activist, and retired judge at a Nov. 14 reception

The University of Cincinnati College of Law will rename its Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice in honor of civil rights leader, activist, and retired judge Nathaniel R. Jones. In honor of this occasion, the College will host a reception and dinner at 6 p.m, Thursday, Nov. 14, at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (50 East Freedom Way, Downtown).

 Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available at the UC Foundation website.

 “As a co-founder and former co-director of the center, I am thrilled that we are recognizing and embracing Judge Jones’ legacy in this way. Judge Jones is a true champion for justice and an inspiration for the Center’s work. The new name signals our intention to move the Center to a new level of impact and engagement, driven by Judge Jones’ vision and dedication to social justice,” said Verna Williams, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law.

The Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice was founded in 2010 with a mission to train and cultivate scholars, leaders, and activists committed to social change.

The Center provides law students with opportunities for scholarship and experiential learning through social justice fellowships; a joint MA/JD program with the university’s Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; the Freedom Center Journal, a student-run academic, multidisciplinary journal exploring the legacy of struggles for freedom around the world that is published in collaboration with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; and, the Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic, where students represent victims  of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

“The name we take, Nathaniel R. Jones, is a promise to ourselves and our community, to never stop growing and working for justice. It will serve as a beacon, signaling hope and a path forward toward a more just society,” said Kristin Kalsem, Charles Hartsock Professor of Law and co-director of the Center.  

Emily Houh, Gustavus Henry Wald Professor of the Law and Contracts and co-director of the Center, concurred. “In rededicating the Center in the name of a champion for equality, we recommit ourselves to the continuation of this movement, to continue to strive for positive change,” she said.

About Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, namesake of the Center

Jones served as executive director of the Fair Employment Practices Commission before being named assistant US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, the first African-American to hold the position. He went on to become general counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where he fought to defend desegregation and affirmative action.

In 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter appointed Jones to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where he served as judge for over 22 years. He also played an important role in furthering the abolition of apartheid in South Africa. He consulted with drafters of South Africa’s new constitution and laws, conferred with Nelson Mandela upon Mandela’s release from prison after 27 years, and served as an observer during the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1993. In 2003, in recognition of his career as a jurist and civil rights leader, Congress passed H.J. Res. 2 naming the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and U.S. Court House in Youngstown, OH.

His memoir, "Answering the Call: An Autobiography of the Modern Struggle to End Racial Discrimination in America," was published by The New Press in 2016.

President Barack Obama once said of Jones, “For decades-from here to South Africa- you’ve helped advance the cause of justice. Your lifelong commitment to that mission and your ongoing work to ensure vital lessons borne out of struggle and progress remain at the forefront of our collective memory.”

About the University of Cincinnati College of Law

Founded in 1833, the University of Cincinnati College of Law has the distinction of being the first law school west of the Alleghenies. From humble beginnings 175 years ago in a room above Timothy Walker’s law offices to its home today in Clifton (OH), Cincinnati Law has been on the leading edge of legal education. Thousands of lawyers have graduated from the law school, and about one-third practice in the Greater Cincinnati community, working in all areas of the law. For more information about the College of Law, visit www.law.uc.edu.

Featured image at top: Judge Nathaniel R. Jones speaks with UC Law students and faculty in 2017