Friday, January 24, 2020

J. Charles Jones, Civil Rights Activist, 82

A lawyer, Jones led in the early 1960s multiple lunch-counter sit-ins and voter-registration drives in various Southern states and protested discriminatory housing practices near military bases around Washington, DC and suburban Maryland and Virginia. 

A founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which linked young people with the larger civil rights movement, Jones organized some of the first lunch-counter sit-ins in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

In the early 1960s, Jones was one of the Freedom Riders, a group that protested racial segregation on interstate buses in the South. He led voter-registration efforts in Georgia and Mississippi. 

Jones' work in housing discrimination also produced change. As the president of ACCESS — the Action Coordinating Committee to End Segregation in the Suburbs — Jones identified dozens of apartment buildings and housing developments that forbade black residents, despite when they were members of the military. In 1966, Jones walked the entire length of the Capital Beltway, carrying a sign reading “End Apartment Segregation.” In 1966, after a 14-mile march to protest discriminatory housing policies in Northern Virginia, police were needed to keep Jones and his group separate from members of the Ku Klux Klan and others wearing Nazi swastikas. His advocacy worked. In 1967, US Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara's order prohibiting military personnel from living in segregated housing within about three miles of Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base. 

Jones was arrested multiple times at demonstrations, including twice with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., with whom he was on a first-name basis.

Read the January 18, 2020 Washington Post article.

Watch a 2012 interview with Jones on YouTube.