Theodore Theopolis Jones, Jr.

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Over two days, during the wake and the funeral last week, thousands of friends, admirers and colleagues paid homage to the life and legacy of Judge Theodore Theopolis Jones, Jr. of New York State’s Court of Appeals. A son of Brooklyn, a Vietnam war vet and a legal scholar, he was hailed for his compassion to and respect for “janitor and judge” alike. The funeral was held Friday, November 16th at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, pastored by The Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood. Justice Jones, also described as a “leading proponent of measures to prevent wrongful convictions,” died of a heart attack two weeks ago at his home in New City, N.Y. He was 68.

 

The Honorable Theodore Theopolis Jones, Jr. was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 10, 1944 to Theodore T. Jones, Sr. and Hortense Parker Jones of Newport News, Virginia. He was affectionately known as Teddy. He was the youngest of three children and raised in a close-knit family with the love and support of an extensive group of aunts and uncles, all of whom stressed the value and importance of education and who encouraged him to strive for excellence and to take advantage of every educational opportunity.

 

He attended P .S. 93 elementary school in Brooklyn, New York. In 1952, the Jones family moved to Jamaica, New York, where he then attended P.S. 123 and Shimer Junior High School. While at Shimer, he met Joan Sarah Hogans, who later became his loving spouse of 45 years.

 

Judge Jones later graduated from John Adams High School in Queens, New York and matriculated at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Hampton, Virginia. While at Hampton, he was inducted into the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Gamma Epsilon Chapter, (Spring 1963) and was involved in various student organizations. Judge Jones was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, and was commissioned at graduation as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He graduated from Hampton Institute in 1965, with Bachelor of Science degrees in History and Political Science.

 

Judge Jones served as a Field Artillery Officer and later completed Special Forces training at the John F. Kennedy School of Special Warfare at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

He was then stationed in the Republic of Vietnam where he served with distinction and honor from June 1968 until July 1969. He relinquished his commission at the rank of Captain, and then went on to serve his country in various other capacities.

 

In 1972, Judge Jones graduated from the St. John’s University, School of Law with a Juris Doctorate degree, and soon after was admitted to the New York State Bar. He began his legal defense career working for the Community Defender Office of the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Division located in Brooklyn, New York. He later served as Law Secretary to the Hon. Howard A. Jones of the N. Y.S. Court of Claims. In 1975, he established a private practice on Fulton Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, and later at 16 Court Street in Brooklyn Heights, specializing in criminal defense litigation. On many occasions, he commented that he “enjoyed practicing law, working with colleagues, and mentoring many young aspiring lawyers”. He was an inspiring and respected resource for an immeasurable number of attorneys and others associated with the practice of law.

 

In 1990, Theodore J ones successfully ran for Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. Justice Jones presided over the Juvenile Offender Part from September 1993 through December 1997, handling all cases involving juveniles who were charged with felonies in Kings County. While presiding over those cases, it was important to Justice Jones to be a positive influence in the lives of those juveniles that came before him.
From January 1998 through January 2006, Justice Jones presided over various cases in the Supreme Court, Kings County Civil Term. Subsequently, he served as Administrative Judge, Supreme Court, Kings County, Civil Term. In January 2007, Justice Jones was nominated to the New York State Court of Appeals by newly-elected Governor Eliot Spitzer. After Senate confirmation that February, Ted was sworn in as an Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals.

 

During the course of his legal career, Judge Jones served on the Committee on Character and Fitness for the Second Judicial Department; Commission on the Future of the Courts (Dunn Commission); Commission to Town and Village Court; and Co-Chair of the Task Force on Wrongful Convictions. Always committed to education, Judge Jones served on the Board of Trustees for St. John’s University, and on the Board of Directors of St. John’s University School of Law.

 

Judge Jones was the honored recipient of numerous awards, including: New York County Lawyer’s Association – Judicial Sunshine Award; Brooklyn Bar Association- Judicial Excellence and Special Appreciation Award; The Catholic Lawyers Guild Award; The Jewish Lawyers Guild Award; The Woman’s Bar Association; St. John’s University School of Law – Alumni Achievement Award and Distinguished Alumni Award; New York City Trial Lawyers Association – Excellence in Jurisprudence; Metropolitan Black Bar Association; Legal Aid Society – Distinguished Alumni Award; Westchester County Black Bar – Constance Baker Motley Judiciary Award; Medgar Evers College – President’s Medal; Tribune Society; Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. – Citizen of the Year and Metropolitan Chapters Award; NYS Court of Claims – Judicial Achievement Award; Macon B. Allen Black Bar Association – Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award; Rockland County Bar Association – Judicial Achievement Award; National Bar Association- Gertrude Rush Award; Rochester Black Bar Association – Champion of Diversity Award; New York State Bar Association – Lifetime Achievement Award. Further, Judge Jones held Honorary Doctor of Laws Degrees (LL.D) from St. John’s University School of Law and from Pace University School of Law.

 

Judge Jones’ professional experience did not overshadow his love for life. An avid golfer, Ted enjoyed spending time on the golf course with family, friends, and colleagues.

 

He often jokingly threatened the use of his short game around the green against those who challenged his drive off of the tee. Ted would smile and say, “always remember – every shot in golf makes somebody happy”.

 

Judge Jones and his loving wife, the former Joan Sarah Hogans, were friends and companions for many years. Their union was an expression of their commitment to each other. Their sensitivity to each other, and their inclusion of family and friends, made them whole. In the course of their journey together, they endured the loss of their youngest son, Michael David Jones, who passed away in the summer of 2003. They were always happy to relay the numerous successes of sons TJ and Wesley. Ted and Joan enhanced each other as they together enjoyed what life offered.

 

On Monday, November 5,2012, Theodore T. Jones, Jr. left this life and joined his son Michael. Judge Jones is survived by his wife Joan; son Theodore T. Jones III (TJ) and his wife, Teresa, and son Wesley Dennis Jones and his fiancé, Yendelela Cuffee; grandchildren: Kira and Theodore T. Jones IV (Theo); sister A. Theodora J. Blackmon and her family; brother Dr. Lawrence W. Jones, Sr. and his family; mother-in-law Ruth Hogans; sisters-in-law: Shirley Turner, Vivian Pacheco, Linda Hall, and Gail Reed and their families; and a host of family and friends. Even as his life is now a series of events and accomplishments in our memory, he will be dearly missed but never forgotten.

 

“He was tapped to elevate law itself.”
Some Reflections:
Judge Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge, New York Court of Appeals: “There was something about Teddy, something inescapable. Ted didn’t overthink things. That’s what he did with his life and with the transit strike. He had a quiet dignity, everybody loved and adored him He had a certain humility, whether with family or in the court. He talked about his professional life and his family life. And he excelled in both.”

“Ted knew what justice was. He had a passion for equal justice, lke no onw I know. He listened, and he had common sense.. What will I remember most? The times we were not on the bench. He captivated all of us. His appreciation of life came from his Vietnam experience, especially in the way he dealt with issues of life and death. He was a unique human being , had a gentleness of spirit.”

Charles Hynes, District Attorney, Kings County, New York, framed the time of his academic career, what was happening in the nation – the Virginia of Judge Jones when he attended Hampton, where he was majoring in Physics, and the legal issues he dealt with in life. “It was a largely segregated time, historic civil rights laws were being put in place, but by the end of Jim Crow, those laws (still) were not fully enforced. He travelled to The South during the Civil Rights Movement and was forced to use a Colored Only bathroom. He served in Vietnam, where many white officers clung to the vestiges of racial segregation. He and his contemporaries had to overcome the problems that Langston Hughes described in his poem, ‘A Dream Deferred.’ But Ted never shriveled under pressure. I never observed him clash or angry. He had a sharp intellect. He was brilliantly coherent and logical.”

Attorney Ravi Batra: “I rise to pay tribute to a rare man and to declare my unabashed affection for this man of steel. Teddy was a man of uncommon valor, integrity. (We always) knew that Justice dispensed by him would be honest and just for all. Let me tell you a little bit about his soul: he was kindness personified without fear nor favor. And as the world is at odds with the laws of nature itself, he leaves his everlasting embrace of it all.”

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More Reflections from Colleagues and Associates, and Stories, Remembrances of Long-time Close Friends.