|Vol. 9 No. 24
NOVEMBER 27, 2014
Publisher & Editor
Lisa Peyton-Caire, Eileen Hocker,
Alfonso Zepeda Capistran, Theola
Carter, Fabu, Lang Kenneth Haynes,
Heidi Pascual, and Donna Parker
Webmaster: Heidi M. Pascual
Principled Warrior Passes
During the Madison Metropolitan Links’ Community Service Awards luncheon on November 22, my heart became heavy when Marion Brown
gave passed the news that Professor Emeritus James E. Jones Jr. had died. It’s not like it was unexpected. Jim was 90-years-old and when I
would run into his wife, Joan Jones, on occasion and she would say that Jim is not doing well. He had been ill for a while.
Although Jim’s illness had taken him away from a lot of community events, his presence is eternally felt in the lives of the people whom he
touched, whether it was on a personal or professional basis. There are many who never knew this — whether it is because of when they were
born or the fact that Jim was such a huge presence that he did not toot his own horn — but I and many others would call Jim ‘The Father of
That’s right. Jim had a lot to do with how Affirmative Action was implemented in the United States.
Back in the early 1960s when Congress was passing and the president was signing all of that civil rights legislation, the laws had to be
translated into actual policies and guidelines that the president and the executive branch would use to implement the laws. Well Jim was a
lawyer in the U.S. Department of Labor during those days and it fell on to his shoulders — and others — to write the first federal Affirmative
Action rules and guidelines.
And these rules and guidelines helped a generation or two of African Americans, other people of color and women obtain equal opportunity in
employment, not to speak of equal pay. There are millions of people who have Jim to thank for their ability to get ahead in what at that time —
and still is — a white male dominated labor market.
I got to know Jim at first through his wife Joan who was on the board of the Madison Urban League in the 1980s and was an articulate and
ardent supporter of affirmative action and equal opportunity in her own right. They were an awesome civil rights couple who could always be
seen at Urban League and NAACP functions.
Jim could be a gruff man who didn’t suffer fools and pretenders gladly. I can hear him even now grumbling about Clarence Thomas and the rest
of the U.S. Supreme Court for decimating and turning back Affirmative Action.
Yet Jim was a compassionate man, a labor lawyer, who was on the side of working men and women and those who were scrambling by to
eek out a living in this world. He was a generous man.
I had the opportunity to get to know Jim better in 1999 after I became editor of The Madison Times after Betty Franklin-Hammonds died. I got it in
my head to do an interview with Jim about Affirmative Action because I felt it was universally misunderstood and maligned by many. Jim was
gracious enough to let me interview him and we had a lengthy interview in the office that he kept as a professor emeritus at the UW Law
School where he impacted the lives of thousands of law students and was a mentor to many Black law students and graduates, especially
those who went on to do civil rights work.
Jim was my very first big interview. I transcribed the interview and sent it to him for his review. In the transcript, I recorded everything and
Jim humorously said, ‘You’re not going to the ‘uhs’ in the article?’ I had literally transcribed everything.
The interview turned into a four-part series, the first and only four-part series I ever did. Jim gave me the encouragement that I needed to go on
in this journalism business. If he had said, ‘Jon, you have a good heart, but you’re a lousy journalist,’ I probably wouldn’t be writing today.
During the 1970s all the way up to the 2000s before he became ill, Jim was a warrior and an icon for affirmative action and civil rights. He was
a fierce advocate for these principles. He was one of those clear thinking individuals who stood for something and would argue the point with
you no matter who you were and what you were supposed to know. Jim was a principled warrior, an icon through which you could measure
your own beliefs and values. You may not have agreed with Jim, but you knew exactly where he stood unfailingly and could measure your own
principles, values and viewpoints against it.
We will continue to feel the impact of Jim Jones’ life for generations to come. The U.S. Supreme Court may try to extinguish the fire of
Affirmative Action, but they can never extinguish the passion for equal opportunity, Affirmative Action and freedom that Jim Jones embodied.
His fiery spirit will live on in our hearts forever.
|2014 Rabbi Swarsensky
Humanitarian Service Award: CCH
Editor Wins Humanitarian Award
Story by Patty Loew