The ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities (IRR) is proud to honor former Section Council Member Elaine R. Jones with the 2011 Thurgood Marshall Award. Ms. Jones served as President and Director-Counsel, Emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). Founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, 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 organization in 1993, she became the first woman and fourth person to head LDF. She brought with her vast experience as a litigator and civil rights activist, as well as a passion for fairness and equality.
Like Justice Thurgood Marshall, Elaine’s career has been filled with many “firsts.” She was the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Virginia School of Law and was one of the first black women to defend death row inmates as part of the legal team in Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court case that in 1972 abolished the death penalty in 37 states. She also has litigated numerous class action employment discrimination cases challenging race and gender discrimination in the workplace.
In 1988, at the recommendation and encouragement of the leadership of IR&R, Elaine became the first African-American to integrate the ABA’s Board of Governors, where she served for three years. Elaine remains active within the Association and is a member of an illustrious group of civil rights leaders to gain ranks within the ABA through the Section. “The Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities has often been referred to as the ‘conscience of the ABA’. IR&R has made certain that its agenda of the law’s responsiveness to basic civil and human rights became the agenda of the Association. It has been my honor to be a small part of that proud tradition,” said Elaine.
The Section is honored to present the 20th Anniversary Thurgood Marshall Award to a member of the IR&R family. The award was presented at a dinner on Aug. 6, 2011 during the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada.