Madison Mourns Pioneering Law Professor James Jones, Jr. (JD ’56)

James E. Jones Jr., emeritus professor of law at the University of Wisconsin, died peacefully on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, at Attic Angel Place, following a lengthy illness. He was 90.

Jim Jones B&W

Born June 4, 1924 in Little Rock, Arkansas, he received a B.A., Magna Cum Laude, from Lincoln University (Missouri) in 1950; an M.A. in Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois in 1951; and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1956. From 1951 to 1953 he served as an Industrial Relations Analyst for the U.S. Wage Stabilization Board. Joining the U.S. Department of Labor upon graduation from law school as a legislative attorney, he progressed to Counsel for Labor Relations, Director of the Office of Labor Management Policy Development, and was Associate Solicitor, Division of Labor Relations and Civil Rights in the Office of the Solicitor of Labor when he was persuaded to pursue a career in teaching.

Professor Jones has written widely on labor law and equal employment and affirmative action. He has been an Associate of the Institute for Research on Poverty and was the Director of the Center for Equal Employment and Affirmative Action of the Industrial Relations Research Institute from 1974 to 1993. From 1971 to 1973 he was the Director of the Industrial Relations Research Institute. He was a John Bascom Professor from 1983-1991, when he became the Nathan P. Feinsinger Professor of Labor Law. He was the 1991 recipient of the UW Hilldale Award as the outstanding professor in the Social Science Division and the 1995 recipient of the Wisconsin Law Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award. In 1996, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus by the University of Illinois Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations.

A member of the Labor Law Group since 1970, he served as chair of the Editorial Policy Committee (the Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executive Officer) from 1978-1982, during which time the Group published six books on labor law. Race in America, co-edited with UW Professor H. Hill, was named an outstanding book for 1995 by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America. He originated the William H. Hastie Teaching Fellowship program at Wisconsin Law School in 1973. Professor Jones was named 1998 Teacher of the Year by the Society of American Law Teachers. In 1999, he was inducted into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame.  Jones was inducted into the Lincoln University Alumni Hall of Fame in July 2014.

UW Law Professor James E. Jones Jr.
UW Law Professor James E. Jones Jr.

A firm believer in the Wisconsin Idea–the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state–Professor Jones was appointed by the President of the United States to the Federal Service Impasses Panel (1978-1982); by the Governor of the State of Wisconsin to the Manpower Planning Council (1971-1976); and the Wisconsin Task Force on Comparable Worth (1984-1986); and by the Mayor of the City of Madison to the Police and Fire Commission (1973-1977 and 1994-1995). He served several three year terms in the University Senate and on the Athletic Board from 1972-1989. He has been a member of the United Auto Workers Board of Public Review since 1970.

UW Law’s first black professor, Jones retired from teaching in 1993, yet his impact is still felt. Notably, he developed the William H. Hastie Teaching Fellowship, a nationally regarded LL.M. degree program for lawyers of color. In 2013, the Wisconsin Law Review commemorated Jones’ accomplishments with a series of tribute essays written by colleagues and former Hastie Fellows. As an emeritus professor, Jim continued to teach labor law and labor arbitration. He could often be found teaching impromptu lessons in law school and life in various corners of the building.

Professor Thomas W. Mitchell, faculty director of the Hastie program, says Jones took a pioneering, proactive stance toward diversifying law school faculties. “He believed that beyond merely trying—and often failing—to recruit qualified minority faculty, law schools had a duty to develop and prepare minority lawyers to succeed in tenure-track positions,” Mitchell adds.

Jones created the Hastie Program at a time when estimates put the number of black law school faculty in the United States at 100, with most serving at historically black law schools.  Since then, law schools have made strides toward increasing faculty diversity, but efforts have stalled in recent years, Mitchell says. He points to 2008 statistics, in which 15 percent of law professors identified themselves as minorities, as compared to the 34 percent in the general population at the time.  Jones hoped other law schools would replicate the Hastie model. A few schools tried, but not all sustained their efforts. “Wisconsin has Jim Jones’ vision and resolve to thank for the longevity of the Hastie Program,” Mitchell says. “Our administration and faculty deserve credit, too, for continuing to see the program’s value even when resources are tight.”

The University of Wisconsin Law School has recently completed Professor Jones’ autobiography.  The book,  Hattie’s Boy: The Autobiography of James E. Jones, Jr., by James E. Jones, Jr., is a special book about a special member of the law school community.

"Hattie's Boy," Prof. James Jones autobiography.
“Hattie’s Boy,” Prof. James Jones’ autobiography.

For a generation, students of Jim Jones have recognized that his story needed to be told — not just for the historical and racial perspectives he could offer, but also for the panoramic story of motivation and success it represents. With their encouragement, Professor Jones set out to record his life with the same work ethic, frankness, and strength of character that he has applied to many challenges. The result is a personal, captivating, and candid sharing of his life’s story. It depicts the poverty and segregation he faced in Little Rock in the 1920’s and 1930’s, his pursuit of education to escape, his role in shaping national labor relations and affirmative action policies, and his celebrated impact as a teacher, scholar, and colleague in what he calls the “legal academy.”  Throughout his story, Professor Jones reflects on the trilogy of motivation, striving, and success and how it shaped him. Foremost, he reflects on the profound and lasting influence of Hattie, his grandmother.

Jones was a dedicated public servant, serving on the Public Review Board International Union, UAW, The Labor Law Group, and The National Academy of Arbitrators, to name a few. He was appointed to the Federal Service Impasses Panel by President Carter, and served two terms on the Madison Police and Fire Commission. Jones was a member of the Wisconsin State Bar and National Bar Associations, and was a life member of the NAACP and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. He also served for many years on the UW Athletic Board, and enjoyed many sports, especially football.

Jones was born on June 4, 1924, in Little Rock, Ark. He married Joan Turner on May 6, 1960, in Washington, D.C. He was preceded in death by his mother and stepfather, Alice E. Cummings Truman and Beverly C. Truman, and his sister, Ida Ruth Morton. Jim is survived by his wife of 54 years, Joan T. Jones; a daughter, Evan W. Jones; a son, Peter R.C. (Alanna Kessler-Jones) Jones; and his grandson, Spencer James Kessler-Jones.

He was an avid reader, runner, and tennis player, and he enjoyed rigorous discussion and debate about current events.

A memorial service is being planned for a later date. Please share your memories at

Memorials in Jones’ name may be made to the UW Law School General Fund, the UW Law School Legal Education Opportunities Enrichment Fund, and Agrace HospiceCare.