The Elaine R. Jones ’70 Scholarship, named in honor of the school’s first Black alumna on the occasion of her 50th reunion, has been instituted at the University of Virginia School of Law. First-year law student Genesis Moore is the inaugural recipient.
A Norfolk native, Jones was the first female president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, from 1993-2004. After she turned down a Wall Street job offer in 1970 to work at LDF, Jones became one of the first Black women to defend death row inmates, including as counsel of record in Furman v. Georgia, a U.S. Supreme Court case that abolished the death penalty in 37 states.
Jones also worked for two years as special assistant to the secretary of transportation in the Ford administration. She was the first African American to serve on the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association.
“This new scholarship will ensure that Ms. Jones’ legacy lives on for students now and in the future, and it will provide support for incoming students dedicated, like her, to pursuing careers that promote racial equity,” Dean Risa Goluboff said.
Moore, of Athens, Georgia, earned a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Georgia, where she served as vice president of the NAACP chapter and was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She also served as a UGA Perspectives board member, working to form initiatives for the Office of Institutional Diversity. Additionally, Moore was a youth seminar leader and tutor for high school students.
Moore said she was proud to receive the scholarship from someone she sees as a role model.
“This is a woman who participated in numerous noteworthy cases in the fight for equality and just treatment in the judicial system and the society at large,” she said of Jones. “This is a woman who has paved the way for me to hopefully continue on in the endless struggle for equity and true justice for all.”
Moore said she chose UVA Law because the school is full of opportunities, such as the Pro Bono Program, to help her land where she can implement the most change. As an institution that produced “groundbreaking” alumni such as Jones, U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves ’89 and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee ’75, among others, “I felt drawn to the University and the unparalleled forces it has created and the resources it has to offer,” she said.
Moore was inspired by Jones’ career path and said her dream job is to follow in the footsteps of such pioneers and become a civil rights lawyer with her own firm to help underserved communities.
“By fighting against these injustices at the judicial level, I will be able to do my part in combating systemic inequity and making changes on a larger scale,” Moore said.
Jones said she was humbled by the honor and remains thankful for UVA Law taking a chance on her. She said she’s proud Moore is the inaugural scholar.
“I’m glad that Genesis is there, and she sounds extraordinary,” Jones said. “Her background is one of service and a commitment to other students, to young people, and to mentoring, and that’s just wonderful. She’s going to go a long way.”
Jones added, “I’m so glad to see people like Genesis and others, a new generation the Law School has made possible, that will come along and pick up that baton.”
Jones will also be the keynote speaker at the Center for the Study of Race and Law’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. lecture, part of UVA’s Community MLK Celebration. A portrait of Jones is also being commissioned and will be displayed at the Law School.
Jones is a recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law and holds 13 honorary degrees. She also has garnered recognition of many organizations, including the Secretary’s Award of the Department of Transportation, the D.C. Bar Association’s first Brennan Award, the Hannah G. Solomon Award of The National Council of Jewish Women, the Mickey Leland Public Service Award of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Justice Award of the Metropolitan Bar Association in New York City, the Brennan Center’s Brennan Legacy Award, the American Lawyer Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s First Public Service Award, People for the American Way’s 2001 Democracy Award, and the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession (Margaret Brent Award). In 2000, President Bill Clinton presented her with the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award.
Jones gave the commencement address at the Law School in 2004.
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.