KnowledgeWorks Board member receives NAACP’s top honor

Judge Nathaniel Jones presented Spingarn Medal for dedication to civil rights


Honoring a life dedicated to civil rights and activism, the NAACP named the Honorable Judge Nathaniel Jones as recipient of this year’s Spingarn Medal, the organization’s top honor.

KnowledgeWorks offers sincere congratulations to Jones, who has been a member of the organization’s board of directors since 2002.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Judge Jones as a member of our board of directors,” KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler said. “He is a never-ceasing voice for young people throughout their educational journeys, and he always reminds us that we, as an organization, exist to ensure equal access to a high-quality education for all. This award celebrates his outstanding dedication to social justice, equity and education opportunity.”

The Spingarn Medal, which was instituted in 1914, is presented to an African American man or woman who made the “highest achievement during the preceding year or years in any honorable field of human endeavor.”

Jones, who is known for his fight for civil rights throughout the U.S. and South Africa, is well deserving of this recognition. He served in the United States Air Force in World War II, received his A.B. and L.L.B. (converted to J.D.), and practiced private law before then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy appointed him as Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland.

From there, he was appointed to serve as Assistant General Counsel to President Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission. In 1969, Jones became the NAACP general counsel.  For the next nine years, he directed all NAACP litigation, which allowed him to personally argue several cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Jones to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He served on the court for 23 years.

He also coordinated national efforts to end northern school segregation, defend affirmative action and inquire into discrimination against black servicemen in the military.

“Throughout the past 14 years, Judge Jones has humbly and unselfishly shared with us his incredible insights, wisdom and experience,” said Harold Brown, KnowledgeWorks Senior Officer for the Advancement of Underserved Learners. “Our community owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to him for his incalculable contributions toward our mutual well-being.”

Other Spingarn Medal recipients include W.E.B. DeBois, George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read more about Jones here.

About KnowledgeWorks

KnowledgeWorks is a national nonprofit organization advancing a future of learning that ensures each student graduates ready for what’s next. For 20 years, we’ve been partnering with states, communities and leaders across the country to imagine, build and sustain vibrant learning communities. Through evidence-based practices and a commitment to equitable outcomes, we’re creating the future of learning, together.