The Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones was recently selected as the 2016 NAACP Spingarn Medal recipient.
He is the 101st person to receive the distinguished honor.
Jones, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, succeeded Thurgood Marshall as general counsel for the NAACP in the 1970s before serving as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for 24 years. Jones also fought to overturn racial discrimination against black people across Africa in the 1990s, working with Nelson Mandela and others to write a new constitution for South Africa following the Apartheid era.
Nathaniel Jones is a pioneer who has never failed to stand for the rights of people denied a chance to be a part of the process, said Roslyn A. Brock, chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors. His distinguished career serves as inspiration to our thousands of youth leaders working to end the profound segregation that continues to exist in our society to this day.
From 1969 to 1978, Jones work for the NAACP took him to the Supreme Court multiple times, where he argued for affirmative action in the public and private sectors, challenged efforts to maintain segregated schools in jurisdictions across the United States, and successfully defended the NAACP against attempts by Mississippi businesses and officials to bankrupt the organization through civil lawsuits brought by the targets of mass boycotts and protests in that state.
From the era of Reconstruction onward, American history shows that for every advancement in civil rights, there follows a nasty backlash of foot-dragging, reprisals and denials of the freedoms that were promised, said Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP. Judge Jones work should inspire us all to remember that the most important efforts in pursuit of equality are required after victory is declared.
Past Spingarn Medal recipients include former NAACP leaders W.E.B. Du Bois (1920), Walter White (1937), Thurgood Marshall (1946) and Julian Bond (2009), artists like Duke Ellington (1959), Sammy Davis Jr. (1968), Maya Angelou (1994) and Sidney Poitier (2015), and political leaders like Martin Luther King (1957), Jesse L. Jackson (1989) and Colin Powell (1991).