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Former Judge, Civil Rights Activist Nathaniel Jones Dies

By the Philadelphia Tribune and staff reports

CINCINNATI — Nathaniel Jones, a former federal judge who served for more than two decades on the federal appeals court in Cincinnati and previously served as general counsel for the NAACP, has died of congestive heart failure. He was 93. Judge Jones’ death was confirmed by his daughter, Stephanie Jones, and the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office. Stephanie Jones said her father died of congestive heart failure on January 26 at his home in Cincinnati, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

In 1979, former President Jimmy Carter appointed Judge Jones to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, where he served until his retirement in 2002. The federal courthouse in Youngstown later was named in his honor. The native of Youngstown had served as the chief lawyer for the NAACP from 1969 until his appointment to the federal appeals court. As counsel for the NAACP, he argued for the organization in school desegregation suits filed against public school districts in Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In the 1980s, he traveled across Africa, assisting emerging nations in establishing judicial systems. He also helped South African leaders draft a constitution ending that nation’s system of legal racial segregation known as apartheid. In 2016, the NAACP announced its selection of Judge Jones as the recipient of its highest honor, the Spingarn Medal. He was also a recipient of the International Freedom Conductor Award from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

The award recognizes the contributions of individuals who reflect the spirit and courageous actions of conductors on the historic Underground Railroad. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley praised Jones on Sunday for his work in civil rights and said that knowing him “has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”


“Cincinnati and our country is a better place for his life,” Mayor Cranley said in the statement. Judge Jones is survived by five children and eight grandchildren. Information on funeral services had not been released at press time. He was a Prince Hall Freemason and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

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