February 12, 2018

Black History Month: Alberta Jones

Alberta Jones was the first female African American prosecutor in Louisville, Kentucky…

Alberta Jones, the first female African American prosecutor in Louisville, Kentucky, was a powerful figure that remains largely unknown.  Jones was a civil rights advocate and counsel for the young Cassius Clay.  She also was active in her community as a member of the NAACP.  Jones organized training classes to teach black people how to register to vote.  Nearly 6,000 new voters were established with the help of Jones’ Independent Voters Association.  Her pupils came out in force, voting to replace the mayor and other city officials in 1961. 

After graduating near the top of her class at the University of Louisville, she obtained a law degree from Howard University School of Law in 1959.  Shortly thereafter, Jones became one of the first black women to be admitted to the Kentucky State Bar.  Just one year after becoming licensed to practice law, a young man named Cassius Clay hired Jones to represent him and negotiate his first professional boxing deal.  Zealously advocating for her client, the future Muhammad Ali, Jones insisted that 15 percent of his winnings be held in a trust until he turned 35.  As a prosecutor, Jones worked to convict criminals guilty of domestic violence. 

Sadly, in 1965 Alberta Jones was murdered, beaten, and thrown into a river.  Many theories exist as to who the killer or killers were, yet the case remains unsolved.  During an interview shortly before her murder, Jones told the Courier-Journal that when she returned home to Louisville, people told her: “You’ve got two strikes against you: You’re a woman and a Negro.” Her response: “Yeah, but I still have one strike left, and I’ve seen people get home runs when all they’ve got left is one strike.”  For years, Jones’ family have been told that there is not enough evidence to arrest anyone, that investigators are dead, or the evidence no longer exists.  In Louisville, civic groups and crusaders for justice remain vigilant hoping that someone will figure out what happened 53 years ago.  With “two strikes” against the investigation, people close to this story remain hopeful that there’s a home run in their future.   


Source attributions:

A Quest for Justice for a Murdered Civil Rights Pioneer, 52 Years Later: The NY Times.com https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/us/alberta-jones-murder-louisville.html. Access Date February 9, 2018.

Who Killed Alberta Jones, Louisville’s First Black Female Prosecutor: The Washington Post.com https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/10/09/who-killed-alberta-jones-louisvilles-first-black-woman-prosecutor/?utm_term=.5e62b85213e0. Access Date February 9, 2018.