Who Is Clarence B. Jones?

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Who is Clarence B. Jones? Clarence B. Jones was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the attorney, speechwriter, and advisor helped draft the “I Have a Dream” speech, famously delivered in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. In addition to being former legal counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Clarence B. Jones is the author of the books “Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation” and “What Would Martin Say?”

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Who is Clarence B. Jones? According to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he’s “a man of great integrity.” That quote comes from a letter Martin Luther King wrote the New York State Bar in 1962, recommending his friend Clarence B. Jones be admitted.

But who Clarence B. Jones, the man that would help write the “I Have a Dream” speech—one of the most influential addresses ever delivered on American soil? Clarence B. Jones was born Jan. 8, 1931, in Philadelphia. After attending boarding school in New England, he studied at Columbia University and was drafted into the Army in 1953. In 1955, his refusal to sign the Armed Forces Loyalty Certificate earned him an “undesirable” discharge, and in 1956, he earned his BA from Columbia. After a stint at Boston University’s School of Law, where he earned his LLB, he moved to California with his wife, Anne, and opened an entertainment-law practice.

In 1960, Clarence B. Jones met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and that year, he was among the lawyers that helped defend King during his tax fraud trial. By 1963, Clarence B. Jones had become a close friend of Dr. King’s, and in April of that year, he secretly carried a hand-written letter King had written after being arrested in Birmingham and circulated it among likeminded clergymen. The missive became known as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and later that year, Clarence B. Jones helped write the “I Have a Dream Speech.”

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Who is Clarence B. Jones? He’s a scholar and lawyer with tremendous respect for his old friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—and who knows the role he played in history. “In 12 years and four months from 1956 until April 4, 1968, with the exception of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation, Martin Luther King Jr. may have done more to achieve political, racial, social justice, equality and economic opportunity than any other person or event in the previous 400-year history of the United States,” Clarence B. Jones said in September 2013, speaking at Dillard University, according to Louisiana’s Bayou Buzz.

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