Joseph Charles Jones, a civil rights leader and attorney, died on Dec. 29, 2019 at 82 years old. He was laid to rest on Saturday, Jan. 4, at the chapel on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University, which he attended and obtained his bachelor’s degree.
Born in Chester, South Carolina on Aug. 23, 1937, Jones’ contributions to the Civil Rights Movement began while attending Johnson C. Smith. There, he assisted in the organization of a 200-student sit-in to protest segregation at Charlotte Woolworth’s lunch counter. At that time, students occupied downstairs lunch counters. However, six months after the organized sit-in, lunch counters and restaurants in Charlotte began accepting integration and agreed to allow Blacks to be served.
Jones co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Shaw University, which supported the “Friendship Nine” protestors in Rock Hill, South Carolina by refusing bail after being arrested for staging a sit-in at a segregated McCrory’s lunch counter. Instead, the SNCC chose to serve 30 days in jail on the “chain gang” in protest. The “Jail, No Bail” strategy they implemented became a commonly used tactic during civil rights protests.
The civil rights icon took part in the Freedom Riders Movement in 1961, where he along with other activists rode on buses through the segregated south to protest segregated bussing.
In 1966, Jones founded Action Coordinating Committee to End Segregation in the Suburbs (ACCESS). This movement was put in place to bring attention to local white landlords who discriminated against Blacks and refused to rent to them in the Washington, D.C. area.
ACCESS led a march around the 64-mile beltway, which lasted four days. Jones spoke of the march with The Washington Post in 2016. “I said to myself, ‘Charles, why don’t we combine what Martin and I had done, what [Mahatma] Gandhi had done, and organize a group and walk around the Beltway, starting at Georgia Avenue on the north side?’,” he said at the time.
Jones graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1966. He passed the North Carolina Bar in 1976, allowing him to practice law as a civil rights attorney for 35 years.
Jones’ influence in the community extended throughout his life. On Dec. 9, 2019, Charlotte’s city council declared that day to be “Joseph Charles Jones Day.”
He is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren and a host of other family members.