Johnnie A. Jones, a prominent civil attorney and a World War II veteran, has passed away, the New York Times reports. He was 102.
Mada McDonald, Jones’ goddaughter confirmed to WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge that he passed away at the Louisiana War Veterans Home in Jackson, La.
The Louisiana Department of Veteran Affairs paid tribute to Jones in a blog post.
“We are saddened by the news of the passing,” read the Louisiana Department of Veteran Affairs post. “It was our distinct honor to care for Mr. Jones at our Louisiana Veterans Home where he lived since this past December.”
“We will always be grateful to have played a part in awarding him the Purple Heart he deserved for his injury in combat,” the LDVA said.
Born on November 30, 1919, in Baton Rouge, LA, Jones enrolled at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, where he intended to study industrial education.
While a student, he served in World War II and he was the first Black warrant officer in the Army. He participated in Operation Overlord where over 150,000 Allied Forces troops fought on Normandy beaches in 1944 as part of the largest single act of warfare in history.
When his military service ended, he earned his law degree in 1953 from Southern University and was appointed by the Rev. T.J. Jemison, a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to help organize the United Defense League’s eight-day bus boycott in Baton Rouge and defend the protesters.
Jones was a leader in the eight-day Baton Rouge bus boycott, which served as a template for the Montgomery bus boycott two years later.
Throughout his law career, Jones led civil rights cases in conjunction with the N.A.A.C.P. and the Congress of Racial Equality. He fought “to remove racial identification from election ballots and fought to integrate Baton Rouge’s schools, parks and pools, all the while facing threats of arrest and disbarment; bombs were twice planted under his car.”
When the United States Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools in the landmark 1954 decision Brown v. Jones, he offered protection to those Black children by escorting them to school.
From 1972 to 1976, Jones served as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives where he continued to fight against legalized racism.
77 years after he was injured by shrapnel during Operation Overlord, he received a Purple Heart for his military service in 2021.
We extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Johnnie A. Jones.