2005-01-20 / Front Page

Struggle for Civil Rights Joyfully Evoked

Struggle for Civil Rights Joyfully Evoked

Vermont Law School Assistant Dean Shirley A. Jefferson, left, with Martin Luther King Day speaker Elaine R. Jones. Photo provided by Mason Chuang.Vermont Law School Assistant Dean Shirley A. Jefferson, left, with Martin Luther King Day speaker Elaine R. Jones. Photo provided by Mason Chuang.

Elaine R. Jones, the retired president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), will lead Vermont Law School’s Martin Luther King Day observance.

The campus celebration and presentation will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 18, in the Jonathon B. Chase Community Center from 12:45-2 p.m. and will be free and open to the public.

The LDF is the nation’s oldest law firm fighting for equal rights and justice for people of color, women, and the poor. When Ms. Jones took the helm of the Legal Defense Fund in 1993, she became the first woman to head the organization.

After graduating with honors in political science from Howard University, Ms. Jones joined the Peace Corps and became one of the first African Americans to serve in Turkey. This began a long series of "firsts" in her career. Following her two-year Peace Corps stint, she became the first black woman to graduate from the University of Virginia School of Law, and subsequently the first African American to serve on the board of governors of the American Bar Association.

In her early years at LDF, only two years out of law school, she was counsel of record in Furman v. Georgia, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that abolished the death penalty in 37 states.

During this period, she also argued numerous employment discrimination cases, including class actions against some of the nation’s largest employers.

By M. D. Drysdale

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