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Member News  -- Elaine Jones (T-8)

Civil Rights Leader, Legal Trailblazer Elaine Jones to Lead Vermont Law School Martin Luther King, Jr. Presentation

South Royalton, VT (January 11, 2005) - Elaine R. Jones, the retired president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), will lead Vermont Law School's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day observance. The campus celebration and presentation will take place on Tuesday, January 18, in the Jonathon B. Chase Community Center from 12:45-2 PM and will be free and open to the public.

The LDF is the nation's oldest law firm fighting for equal rights and justice for people of color, women, and the poor. When Ms. Jones took the helm of the Legal Defense Fund in 1993, she became the first woman to head the organization.

After graduating with honors in political science from Howard University, Ms. Jones joined the Peace Corps and became one of the first African Americans to serve in Turkey. This began a long series of "firsts" in her career. Following her two-year Peace Corps stint, she became the first black woman to graduate from the University of Virginia School of Law, and subsequently the first African American to serve on the board of governors of the American Bar Association.

In her early years at LDF, Ms. Jones was one of the first African American women to defend death row inmates. Only two years out of law school, she was counsel of record in Furman v. Georgia, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that abolished the death penalty in 37 states. During this period, she also argued numerous employment discrimination cases, including class actions against some of the nation's largest employers (e.g., Patterson v. American Tobacco Co., Stallworth v. Monsanto, and Swint v. Pullman Standard).

The presentation is sponsored by Vermont Law School's faculty, staff, and the Student Diversity Committee; the Black Law Student Association; the Vermont Law School Student Ambassadors; and President and Dean Geoffrey Shields.

Press Release Update, January 18, 2005: Ms. Jones spoke at Vermont Law School's 1999 commencement ceremony, at which she received an honorary doctor of laws degree.

LDF President Elaine R. Jones Prepares to Step Down
Tenure as President and Director-Counsel Scheduled to End May 1st

(New York, January 16, 2004) Elaine R. Jones today announced plans to step down as President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), effective May 1. Her career with LDF, the organization considered the legal arm of the civil rights movement that branded public interest law, spanned 32 years.

In a career punctuated with a succession of firsts, Jones was the first woman to hold the position created by LDF's founder Thurgood Marshall. With the exception of her stint as Special Assistant to William T. Coleman, former LDF Board Chairman, who served as Secretary of Transportation in the Administration of President Gerald Ford, Jones has devoted her legal career to LDF. Immediately after graduation from the University of Virginia Law School, where she was the first African-American woman admitted, she joined LDF.

"I leave knowing that LDF will continue its push to create a nation truly dedicated to equal justice," said Jones. "After more than 32 years, 11 of them as Director-Counsel, I believe it is time for a change at LDF. I am stepping down--not retiring--confident that change is a good thing. Change is something we should all embrace. I am also convinced that more than one person can lead, and it is time for new leadership." Jones adds: "I plan to continue to advance LDF's litigation and other programs in any way the Board and my successor deem helpful."

On behalf of the LDF Board of Directors, Co-Chairs Julius L. Chambers and Martin D. Payson expressed their gratitude for Jones' outstanding service and their satisfaction that, upon stepping down, Jones has agreed to be an active presence in LDF programs and fundraising.

"Elaine Jones represents a huge presence whose leadership will be missed greatly. She has left a history of leadership at LDF that will challenge any successor," said Payson.

"As President and Director-Counsel, Elaine Jones expanded LDF's litigation into new areas such as health care and environmental justice, while keeping the organization focused on its core work in education, voting rights, economic access and criminal justice. Under her leadership LDF took on the big cases such as the University of Michigan and Tulia, Texas, and she brought home victories.

"Elaine's departure on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Brown reminds us that both a legacy and a future drive our mission. As we have done with former LDF leaders Jack Greenberg and Julius Chambers, we will continue to draw from Elaine's indomitable passion and energy to build upon the many civil rights advances secured since the Brown victory and during her tenure."

During more than three decades at LDF, Jones has been pivotal in defining civil rights laws and policies. She began her career representing death row defendants in the South and was counselor of record in Furman v. Georgia. That 1972 Supreme Court ruling overturned the sentences of 629 death row defendants because of racial bias in the sentencing process.

Criminal justice has remained a priority for Jones who personally directed a successful clemency campaign on behalf of an incarcerated young woman, Kemba Smith, to underscore overincarceration and draconian federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

During 14 years as LDF's Chief Public Policy Advocate in Washington, D.C., Jones shepherded the reauthorization of the Civil Rights Act of 1992 and scores of other significant congressional and executive branch policies. Capitalizing on the institutional prestige of the nation's most venerable civil rights law firm, Jones and LDF have directly shaped the contours of civil rights jurisprudence, equal educational opportunity, fair housing, voting rights and political empowerment, and the administration of criminal justice. Only the Justice Department has been involved in more cases before the United States Supreme Court.

Jones has selected Law Day for her departure, pointing to the rule of law and the constitutional principles that enshrine LDF's advocacy. "That we are a nation of laws is what makes our society great," Jones professes.
"LDF has always worked to resolve the disconnect between our Constitutional principles and our unjust practices. Brown was a significant achievement. It ended legal apartheid but it also signaled the beginning of the long and often difficult tasks ahead in our quest for simple justice."

The American Lawyer Announces Winners of Its Second Annual Lifetime Achievement Awards New York Lawyer
February 3, 2005

NEW YORK -- ALM's The American Lawyer yesterday announced the recipients of its second annual Lifetime Achievement Awards. This year's award honorees are: Brooksley E. Born, Arnold & Porter; John J. Curtin Jr., Bingham McCutchen; James Ellis and William H. Gates, Preston Gates & Ellis; John J. Gibbons, Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione; Ben W. Heinemann, Jr., General Electric; Elaine Jones, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and R. Sargent Shriver, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. These individuals, as well as the law firms selected last fall for the magazine's 2004 "A-List" ranking, will be honored at a gala dinner on March 30 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

"The American Lawyer's Lifetime Achievement Awards, established last year, recognize distinguished attorneys, selected by the editors of the magazine, for their career accomplishments in both private practice and public service," said Aric Press, editor in chief. "We believe these individuals represent examples to the profession, and we look forward to honoring them in person next month."

The recipients include: Brooksley E. Born, Arnold & Porter -- One of the leaders of the groundbreaking generation of women lawyers, Born made partner while working part-time; led, directed or founded many of the women's legal groups in D.C.; and maintained a top derivatives practice.

John J. Curtin Jr., Bingham McCutchen -- His firm's long-time lead litigator, Curtin has started, supported, and fought for legal services programs nationally and regionally. People and groups in trouble always knew they could call Curtin and receive help.

James Ellis and William H. Gates, Preston Gates & Ellis -- In the private sector, these two individuals put together Seattle's biggest law firm. In the public sector, Ellis sought to protect the environment in the Pacific Northwest, while Gates promoted a model public service program for the state bar. In retirement, Gates has found important work at his son's foundation.

John J. Gibbons, Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione The retired chief judge of the Third Circuit, Gibbons returned to an active private practice that includes significant pro bono work. Last year, he argued in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of inmates held without counsel in Guantanamo.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr., General Electric -- Heineman is credited with inventing the role of the modern general counsel, building a global in-house department that rivals many private firms. He helped found the Pro Bono Partnership which helps in-house lawyers find pro bono projects.

R. Sargent Shriver, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson Before he became a big-firm name partner, Shriver had an astonishing public career which included, among other things, organizing the Peace Corps and directing the War on Poverty. In the latter role, he funded legal services organizations around the nation and founded the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services, now the Shriver Center on Poverty Law.

Each year, the awards honor one lawyer whose entire career has been spent in public service. This year's honoree is Elaine Jones, the retired president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the nation's leading civil rights law office.

Updated: 06/06/2015