|City/Town: • Little Rock|
|Location Class: • Residential|
|Built: • 1928 | Abandoned: • 2013|
|Historic Designation: • National Register of Historic Places (1999) • African American Heritage Site|
|Status: • Abandoned • Endangered|
|Photojournalist: • Ginger Beck|
As a child, he attended black schools near Tulip, then moved to Little Rock in the early 1880s to continue his education. He finished a four year preparatory course in just three years at Philander Smith College, then enrolled in North Little Rock’s Shorter College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He became a teacher while “reading law” in the office of three white attorneys. He passed the bar in 1889, beginning his long legal career (over 50 years) as one of Little Rock’s first black lawyers.
Jones is especially remembered for fighting for and winning the release of 12 black men convicted of murder following the Elaine, Arkansas Race Riot of October 1919. His successful appeal on their behalf resulted in his national recognition in the 1920s.
The riot occurred when an attempt was made to organize black sharecroppers in the eastern Arkansas Delta. Several whites and over a hundred blacks were killed, although there were only the arrests of more than 100 African Americans and no whites. Between November 3 and 17, 1919, twelve men were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for murder in their roles in a supposed black uprising; the trials were marked by weak evidence, a lack of cross-examination of witnesses, and short deliberations by the local juries. The NAACP hired George W. Murphy, a white attorney from Little Rock, to appeal the convictions. Murphy and many African American citizens of Little Rock asked Jones to help defend the twelve condemned men. By January 14, 1925, all twelve defendants had been released. Jones later described this case as “the greatest case against peonage and mob law ever fought in the land.”
Because of the respect he earned as a lawyer and leader of the black community, Jones served as a bridge to Little Rock’s white power structure because he was such an important leader in the black community and well respected. He was largely responsible for preventing a repeat of the Elaine Massacre in the Little Rock. He and other community leaders persuaded their fellow citizens to avoid confrontation during the mob violence surrounding the lynching of John Carter in May of 1927.
In 1924, Jones became one of the first black attorneys to hold a judgeship in Arkansas. He was elected chancellor in the Pulaski County Court. Jones kept his focus on civil rights and criminal defense advocacy. Six months before he was elected chancellor, he was involved in a murder case, winning a stay of execution for his client.
Jones received many honors, including two significant buildings named for him. The junior and senior high school in North Little Rock was named after him from its construction in 1928 until its closing due to the end of segregated education in 1970. Also, The post office at 1700 Main Street in Little Rock was named for Jones in 2007.
He died on March 2, 1943 in Little Rock.
One of the most richly detailed Craftsman-style houses in Little Rock was built around 1928 for Jones. A variety of high quality of materials were used in the home’s construction; brick, stucco, tile and granite. These materials distinguish it from its neighbors, indicating it was built for an owner of above-average income.
Sadly today, the house, although mostly structurally sound in its exterior, is in extreme disrepair. Much of the furniture from the previous owner still remains, although trespassers and squatters have taken up residence in it on occasion, according to neighbors. It is currently posted as unsafe by the City of Little Rock.
The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
UPDATE 2021: THE HOME HAS BEEN PURCHASED AND IS IN THE PROCESS OF THE HISTORIC PAPERWORK AND EVENTUAL RENOVATION. DO NOT GO TO THIS PROPERTY WITHOUT PERMISSION.
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