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Nathaniel Jones, federal judge and civil rights activist, dies at 93

Nathaniel Jones, second from right, with a legal client, James Robinson, in 2005. (Al Behrman/AP)

Nathaniel Jones, a former federal judge who served for more than two decades on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati and previously served as general counsel for the NAACP, died Jan. 26 at his home in Cincinnati. He was 93.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his daughter Stephanie Jones told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Mr. Jones to the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, where he served until his retirement in 2002. He had served as the chief lawyer for the NAACP from 1969 until his appointment to the federal court.

As counsel for the NAACP, Mr. Jones argued for the organization in school desegregation suits filed against public school districts in Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Dayton and Columbus, Ohio.

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.

Nathaniel Raphael Jones was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on May 12, 1926. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and received undergraduate and law degrees from what is now Youngstown State University.

Early in his career, he worked in private practice, was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland and was appointed assistant general counsel to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.

In 2016, the NAACP awarded Mr. Jones its highest honor, the Spingarn Medal.

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