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IN MEMORIAM: The Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “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.

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Judge Nathaniel R. Jones.

Focused on equal opportunity under law

By Dan Yount, The Cincinnati Herald

Equal opportunity under the law. It was the focus of Federal Judge and Civil Rights leader Nathaniel R. Jones’ life for decades, and he has made more of a difference than most people. Judge Jones died of congestive heart failure January 26 at his home in East Walnut Hills, according to his daughter Stephanie Jones, Esq. He was 93.

Jones was born in Youngstown in 1926, 17 years after the founding of the NAACP and the publication of The Call, a document “imploring Americans to discuss and protest the racial problem and to renew the struggle for civil and political rights.” That document deeply influenced him, as did his mentor, J. Maynard Dickerson, according to his autobiography, Answering the Call.

Judge Nathaniel Jones is shown in this cover photograph on his autobiography Answering the Call that was taken in his hometown of Youngstown about a month after he had served as deputy general counsel on the Kerner Commission. Provided.

Judge Nathaniel Jones is shown in this cover photograph on his autobiography Answering the Call that was taken in his hometown of Youngstown about a month after he had served as deputy general counsel on the Kerner Commission. Provided.

After growing up in an integrated neighborhood, Jones writes he learned a hard lesson in “deeply entrenched and pervasive” segregation when he joined the Army in 1945. Attending college on the GI Bill, he enrolled in a pre-law course, continued with law school at night, and became involved in Civil Rights issues, increasingly conscious of the ways that racism was built into voting, housing, health benefits, jobs, and education.

A graduate of his hometown school, Youngstown State University, Jones chose a legal career to help eliminate racial injustice — the kind that led to his being refused a shave in the old Sheraton Gibson barbershop during an early visit to Cincinnati. He earned his law degree from Youngstown State University. In 2003, the federal courthouse in Youngstown was named after Judge Jones.

A year after entering private practice, Jones became the first African American in Ohio to be an Assistant U.S. Attorney, when he was appointed to the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland, a position he held until 1967.

He then was asked by his friend Merle McCurdy to serve as assistant general counsel to President Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission, which made a study of the causes of the urban riots of the 1960s. McCurdy was the commission’s general counsel.

Jones said the commission’s February 1968 report known as the Kerner Report, concluded that the nation was “moving toward two societies, one Black, one White—separate and unequal.” Unless conditions were remedied, the commission warned, the country faced a “system of apartheid” in its major cities.

Jones succeeded Thurgood Marshall as general counsel for the NAACP in the 1970s. His work for the NAACP focused on desegregation, notably in the North, where judges were not convinced that the Brown v. Board of Education decision applied, and on landmark affirmative action cases.

Dinner with South African President Nelson Mandela. In a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Cincinnati federal Judge Nathaniel Jones and his late wife Lillian were asked to dine with South African President Nelson Mandela during Jones’ second visit to the country when he assisted in the drafting of a new constitution for South Africa. Photo provided

Dinner with South African President Nelson Mandela. In a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Cincinnati federal Judge Nathaniel Jones and his late wife Lillian were asked to dine with South African President Nelson Mandela during Jones’ second visit to the country when he assisted in the drafting of a new constitution for South Africa. Photo provided

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.

Jones also fought to overturn racial discrimination against Black people across Africa in the 1990s, working with South African President 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.

Judge Nathaniel R. Jones. Photos by Pete Coleman/The Cincinnati Herald

Judge Nathaniel R. Jones. Photos by Pete Coleman/The Cincinnati Herald

Judge Jones was appointed by President Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati in 1979. Judge Jones retired from the Sixth Circuit Court in 2002, and continued to practice law, serving as senior counsel at the firm of Blank Rome LLP until 2018.

“I see enough here to make Cincinnati an exciting place,” said Jones. “People should be proud and press on to make this city an even better place to live.”

During the 101st National NAACP Convention in 2016 in Cincinnati, Judge Jones said in receiving the NAACP’s highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, “Democracy requires participation. If you don’t participate, you don’t have anybody to blame but yourself. To be a player, you have to be involved. I recognize both the blessing of 90 years and the finite character of what is left of my life, but as long as I have breath, my advice will be to stay focused and resist efforts on the real threat, which is the nullification of the remedies that give meaning to laws against discrimination.

“I want to issue a plea to all who still believe in the NAACP’s call, some 107 years after our founding in 1909. The original Call concluded: “Hence we call upon all the believers in democracy to join in a national conference for the discussion of present evils, the voicing of protests, and the renewal of the struggle for civil and political liberty.

“This is why I am truly honored to be part of the continuing legacy of Spingarn Medalists.’’

Mayor John Cranley, on the passing of Judge Nathaniel Jones, said, in a statement, “Nathaniel Jones was one of the greatest Civil Rights leaders this nation has ever known, having worked with Thurgood Marshall during the Brown v Board case, desegregating countless schools and institutions as head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to helping South Africa come out of apartheid, to ensuring individual rights as a federal judge. To be in his presence was to be in the presence of greatness. Knowing him has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

“In 2001, he helped me write my first major piece of legislation, the city’s racial profiling ban—that’s the equivalent of getting hitting lessons from Hank Aaron. Among Salmon Chase, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Howard Taft and Fred Shuttlesworth, Nathaniel Jones was one of the five greatest Cincinnatians to have ever lived among us.”

Former Ohio State Senator Eric H. Kearney remembers being in his early 20s and meeting Judge Jones at the home of family friend, Civil Rights activist Virginia Coffey. Kearney said, “To our community, Nathaniel Jones was a judge, lawyer, educator, and determined defender of social justice. To his family, he was a dedicated father and grandfather. To me, Judge Jones was a mentor, law school professor, and inspiration. Our region, our nation and our world are a better place thanks to his contributions. Judge Jones will be dearly missed.”

In a statement, a representative of the family of the late State Representative William Mallory, said, “Judge Nathaniel R. Jones was a great legal scholar and a confidant to our beloved William L. Mallory Sr. He called Judge Jones to ask if he had a chance to file a lawsuit to change the way judges are elected in Hamilton County. The historic lawsuit was successful and Judge Jones is a big part of that success. He gave an inspiring commencement speech at the law school graduation of Judge Dwane Mallory. He was a humble man who carried himself with great honor and distinction. He fought for democracy here in Cincinnati and all over the world. He had a unique relationship with the Mallory family, and we will miss him. We send our prayers and condolences to the family of Judge Nathaniel R. Jones.’’

Although thrilled at Barack Obama’s “amazing election,” in the discourse surrounding it, Jones writes in Answering the Call, he was reminded of the need to keep Civil Rights history alive for the media, Congress and the judiciary.

Jones praises Civil Rights lawyers for tirelessly establishing legal standards and fighting federal efforts to thwart them. He mentored and inspired many young people by teaching classes at the University of Cincinnati Law School and Harvard Law School. Judge Jones was actively involved in the Summer Work Experience in Law (SWEL) program in Cincinnati.

He felt that the legal community in Cincinnati was too segregated, so with his friend, the late Judge Robert Black, he established the CBA-BLAC (Cincinnati Bar Association-Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati) Roundtable to foster better relationships with attorneys of different races and ethnic backgrounds.

Among his numerous honors and awards, Judge Jones was named a Great Living Cincinnatian in 1997. He changed the course of history, and we are grateful.

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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She Bought Freedom for Herself and Other Slaves Today a Park is Named in Her Honor

Alethia Browning Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised. 

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Alethia Browning Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

In her early years, Alethia Browning Tanner sold vegetables in a produce stall near President’s Square – now known as Lafayette Square – in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C.

According to the D.C. Genealogy Research, Resources, and Records, Tanner bought her freedom in 1810 and later purchased several relatives’ release.

She was the first woman on the Roll of Members of the Union Bethel AME Church (now Metropolitan AME Church on M Street), and Turner owned land and a store at 14th and H Streets, which she left to her nephews – one of whom later sold the property for $100,000.

Named in her honor, the Alethia Tanner Park is located at 227 Harry Thomas Way in Northeast DC.

The park sits near the corner of Harry Thomas Way and Q Street and is accessible by foot or bike via the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the Florida Ave entrances.

“The first Council legislative meeting of Black History Month, the Council took a second and final vote on naming the new park for Alethia Tanner, an amazing woman who is more than worthy of this long-delayed recognition,” Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said in 2020 ahead of the park’s naming ceremony.

“[Her upbringing] itself would be a remarkable legacy, but Ms. Tanner was also active in founding and supporting many educational, religious, and civic institutions,” McDuffie remarked.

“She contributed funds to start the first school for free Black children in Washington, the Bell School. Feeling unwelcome at her predominately segregated church, she & other church members founded the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church fell on hard times and was sold at auction by creditors, she and her family stepped in and repurchased the church.”

Born in 1781 on a plantation owned by Tobias and Mary Belt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, historians noted that Tanner had two sisters, Sophia Bell and Laurena Cook.

“Upon the death of Mary Pratt (Tobias had predeceased his wife) in 1795, the plantation, known as Chelsea Plantation, was inherited by their daughter Rachel Belt Pratt,” historians wrote.

“Mary Belt’s will stipulated that Laurena be sent to live with a sibling of Rachel Pratt’s while Sophia and Alethia were to stay at the Chelsea Plantation.”

Tanner sold vegetables at the well-known market just north of the White House in Presidents Park. It is possible – and probable – she met Thomas Jefferson there as he was known to frequent the vegetable markets there along with other prominent early Washingtonians, according to historians at attacksadams.com. 

“There are also White House records suggesting she worked for Thomas Jefferson in some capacity, likely doing various housework tasks,” the researchers determined.

Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised.

“Self-emancipation was not an option for all enslaved peoples, but both Alethia and her sister Sophia were able to accomplish this, almost entirely through selling vegetables at the market,” the researchers continued.

“Alethia Tanner moved to D.C. and became one of a significant and growing number of free Black people in the District. In 1800, 793 free Black people were living in D.C.

By 1810, there were 2,549, and by 1860, 11,131 free Black people lived in D.C., more than the number of enslaved peoples.”

Historians wrote that beginning at about 15 years after securing her manumission, Alethia Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

All in all, Tanner would have paid the Pratt family well over $5,000. All accomplished with proceeds from her own vegetable market business, they concluded.

“Alethia Tanner, it’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work, and perseverance,” D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at the park’s dedication.

“I just learned about this history through this, so it shows how when you name a park, you really educate people on the historical significance.”

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