Triumphs and frustrations mark the author’s long legal career.
In his candid, informative debut memoir, Jones, who in 2002 retired from the U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit, recounts his work as a lawyer and judge, including serving as general counsel for the NAACP. His nomination to the 6th Circuit by President Jimmy Carter, he writes, was “the pinnacle” of a career that began “at a time when the profession practiced its own form of racial apartheid.” Jones was born in Youngstown, Ohio, 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, who guided and often goaded him throughout their long relationship. After growing up in an integrated neighborhood, Jones 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. 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. Jones praises civil rights lawyers for tirelessly establishing legal standards and fighting federal efforts to thwart them, and he is edifying in his reasons for opposing Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court Justice. Although thrilled at Barack Obama’s “amazing election,” in the discourse surrounding it, Jones was reminded of the need to keep civil rights history alive for the media, Congress, and the judiciary.
A forthright testimony by a witness to history.