The American Bar Association Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice will honor legendary civil rights leader Clarence B. Jones with its 2021 Thurgood Marshall Award.
“There are so many civil rights heroes — I call them warriors behind the scenes — to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude for the rights and liberties we hold dear,” said Angela J. Scott, chair of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. “But often, we aren't aware of the full extent of their contributions. This year, I am thrilled that we have the privilege of recognizing and honoring one of these heroes. I'm hopeful that by shining a light onto how much of a positive difference this one lawyer has made in advancing civil rights and social justice, our ABA members will recognize that they have the ability to do the same.”
Jones played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1960, he joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legal team. As the draft speech writer for King during the Birmingham Campaign, Jones took King’s hand-written notes from the jail cell that became known as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
Jones also helped organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He also assisted Dr. King in writing his “I have A Dream” speech. Jones is the author of the books “What Would Martin Say?” and “Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation”.
The award will be presented at a Thurgood Marshall Award Celebration virtual program on Friday, Aug. 6, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. CT during the ABA Hybrid Annual Meeting. The award honors U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, to the cause of civil rights in this country.
The virtual program will include a presentation of the award, remarks by Jones, and remarks by Marie Sylla-Dixon, the chief diversity officer at Raytheon Technologies. A conversation between Jones and Ronny Chieng, stand-up comedian, actor and correspondent on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah will be about justice, equality and the future of civil rights. To learn more about the virtual program click here.