NAACP honors 101st Spingarn Medalist Ohio Native Awarded for Decades of Civil Rights Work at Home and Abroad

nathanial r. jones

CINCINNATI – The NAACP National Board of Directors along with NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks announced Ohio native, the Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones as the 2016 NAACP Spingarn Medal recipient. Judge Jones is the 101st recipient of the Spingarn Medal.

Judge Jones was awarded the Spingarn Medal at the annual dinner that closed out the Association’s annual convention in Cincinnati. Named for NAACP co-founder and leader Joel Elias Spingarn, the medal is presented annually to the man or woman of African descent and American citizenship who has made the highest achievement during the preceding year or in consideration of an overall body of work by an individual.

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.”

In addition to co-founding the NAACP in 1909 with a broad coalition of religious, business, labor and civil rights leaders, Joel Elias Spingarn served as chairman, treasurer and president of the organization between 1913 until his death in 1939. He established the medal award in 1915 to honor outstanding achievements by black people in a time when they were not allowed to hold basic rights under American law.

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).

For more information about the Spingarn Award and a full list of past recipients, visit

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