Honoring Past and Future Pathbreakers
The Elaine R. Jones ’70 Scholarship, named in honor of the Law School’s first Black alumna, was established on the occasion of Jones’ 50th reunion. The Law School has raised more than $1,000,000 for the scholarship fund since its launch two years ago.
A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Jones was the first female president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, from 1993 to 2004.
Jones learned about the realities of racism and the importance of idealism from her mother, a college-educated schoolteacher, and her father, a Pullman porter and a member of the nation’s first Black trade union. From the age of 8, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer and to commit her life to the pursuit of equality and justice.
After graduating with honors in political science from Howard University, Jones joined the Peace Corps and became one of the first African Americans to serve in Turkey. This began a long series of “firsts” in her career. Following her two-year Peace Corps tour, she became the first Black woman to graduate from the Law School, and subsequently the first African American to serve on the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association.
After she turned down a Wall Street job offer in 1970 to work at LDF, Jones took on the work of defending death row inmates. She served as counsel of record in Furman v. Georgia, a U.S. Supreme Court case that abolished the death penalty in 37 states.
“I went back to New York with an excellent result,” Jones said. “And that was 600 lives when the Supreme Court decided that case — 600 lives on death row.”
Jones also worked for two years as special assistant to the secretary of transportation in the Ford administration where she was central in opening the Coast Guard to women.
In other words, Elaine Jones has spent her life and career promoting racial equality. In turn, the Elaine R. Jones ’70 Scholarship provides support for incoming students dedicated to pursuing careers that do the same.
Genesis Moore ’23 is the inaugural recipient. Moore, of Athens, Georgia, earned a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Georgia, where she was vice president of its NAACP chapter and a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She also served as a UGA Perspectives board member, working on initiatives for the Office of Institutional Diversity. Additionally, Moore was a youth seminar leader and tutor for high school students.
At the Law School, Moore has served as vice president and historian for the Black Law Students Association. She served as a pro bono volunteer with the Legal Aid Justice Center and the Rutherford Institute. As a second-year she received BakerHostetler’s Paul D. White Scholarship—receiving both an award and a position in the firm’s summer associate program.
Moore was inspired by Jones’ career path and said her dream job is to follow in the footsteps of pioneers like Jones. She hopes to 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.
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.
Media ContactDenise M. Forster