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Tue, 08.05.1913

Thomas R. Jones Jr., Lawyer born

Thomas Jones Jr.

*Thomas R Jones was born on this date in 1913.  He was a Black lawyer and politician.

Thomas Russell Jones, Jr. was born in Brooklyn, New York City, the son of Thomas Russell Jones, Sr. and Mabel (Ward) Jones, immigrants from Barbados.  Jones graduated from St. John's University and St. John's University School of Law. He was admitted to the bar in 1938.  He worked as an activist in anti-fascism and 1941, enlisted in the U.S. Army.  That same year, he married his wife, Bertha K. Jones, with whom he had a son, David, and a daughter, Margaret.  

As a first lieutenant, he participated in the Normandy invasion in 1944. Upon returning to New York, Jones became chief counsel for the New York NAACP branch, mainly involved in cases of police brutality. In 1955, Jones defended three Chinese immigrant workers who had been convicted and sentenced to prison for sedition for "helping Communist China" because they had sent money home to relatives there. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal. In 1980, Jones delivered a speech about the case and the American legal system in Beijing.  

Jones was a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly (Kings County, 10th District) in 1963 and 1964. In November 1964, he was elected to the New York City Civil Court and, in November 1967, to the New York Supreme Court.  Jones worked with U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy to improve living conditions in the slums in New York.

Underestimating Kennedy's genuine desire to help and mindful that many other outsiders had come to Bedford–Stuyvesant, examined conditions there, then left without doing anything to help, Jones said cynically, I’m weary of study, Senator. Weary of speeches, weary of promises that aren't kept... The Negro people are angry, Senator, and judge that I am, I'm angry, too. No one is helping us.  

Jones became the first president of Kennedy's bipartisan grassroots community effort, one of two restoration companies (one for community leaders and one for businessmen) that Kennedy helped found for Bedford–Stuyvesant. The objective was to build health clinics, redevelop housing, build parks and playgrounds, spur commercial activity and investment, and increase employment and political participation amongst the residents.

In 1967, Jones helped found the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, which grew out of the initial Kennedy effort. The 1968 assassination of Kennedy devastated Jones, and it led him to focus more on his judicial career instead of community rebuilding.  He retired from the bench in 1985.  Thomas Russell Jones, Jr., a leading civil rights activist for black Americans in slums of Northern cities, died on October 27, 2006, and was portrayed by actor Ving Rhames in the 2002 TV movie RFK.  

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