Sunday, November 29, 2015

Honorable Federal Judge Jones, United States District Court, Western District of Washington, Seattle

Federal Judge Jones grew up a block from Garfield High School, attended Seattle University & the University of Washington and served his state as a lawyer, prosecutor, King County and Federal Judge. 

He recounts the myriad ways growing up in the Central Area, Central District neighborhood informed who he became and how he approaches life and work.

Honorable Federal Judge Jones. Photo: Madeline Crowley ©

"In many ways, I look at what’s happening now across the United States. I look back at how we grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s and it’s almost as if we’re returning back to what we had before… as if that’s the only way to try and make change come about. I’m certainly not advocating violence because I have to deal with individuals that are charged, possibly criminally depending on what they’ve done. At the same time, when you are up against the wall, you feel that there is no hope, you feel that there is no recourse, then you figure we have to do something. That enormous frustration makes people feel they have to do something. And so, I pray to God that we can do something in a way that is positive, that’s energetic, so that it benefits everyone, so that people don’t resort to violence to try and bring about change."

Were you born in Seattle?

I was born in Seattle, Providence Hospital (now Swedish Hospital, Cherry Hill). I grew up on 22nd & Jefferson, right around the corner from Garfield High School.

Is the house still there?

The house is still there. I encourage you to go see it. It’s 410 22nd Avenue, in the middle of the block. It’s a very small house. When our family first moved there, it was a one-bedroom house. It had an upstairs, which we all affectionately called the attic. Our family had moved there from the projects in Bremerton. I was the eighth kid born into the family. So, imagine ten people in the house with essentially one bedroom and an attic. It made for very close, confined quarters. Still, we got along.

I was the last of eight children and I think my parents were (pause) fairly exhausted from raising that many kids at that point in time.

410 22nd Ave. Photo: Madeline Crowley ©

Probably (laughs).

My first (schooling) experience was that my mom was going to put me in public school at Horace Mann (Elementary). On the very first day of my enrollment there, we ran into a little girl, my same age, and she called my mother a name that wasn’t too appropriate. So, my mom she took me out. We walked straight from there and went up to Immaculate Conception Grade School.

Immaculate School. Photo: Madeline Crowley

Are you roughly the same age as Dorothy Cordova?

No, Dorothy’s older than I am. I grew up with the Cordova family because Fred Cordova was deeply involved in Immaculate Conception. I grew up in the Catholic Church, altar boy and all that; it was a different experience.

It was the type of church, and the type of community that had a collaborative approach to religion because it wasn't ethnic specific, there were a lot of Asians, a lot of African Americans. It was just a good collection of a lot of different people. I think Immaculate Church really represented what our community looked like.

Were you in the same house all the way through high school?


Where did you go to college?

What impact did growing up in the Central Area have on who you became?

One of the gifts that the Central District gave was that it put me in an environment where I really learned how to deal with a lot of different cultures, a lot of different folks, a lot of different histories and backgrounds. The community I was raised in really looked like the rainbow coalition of life. Yet, my block was almost 100 percent African American. There was only one Jewish family around the corner from us.

In the larger neighborhood, there was a little bit of everything in our community. That has helped me over the course of my life, as I learned that there are different cultures; that people respond differently and react differently. It’s helped me, not only in the different types of work I’ve done in the past, but it’s been an enormous benefit to me as a judge.

Judge Jones father, Quincy Delight Jones Sr., Collection Judge Jones. Rights Reserved

I don’t have one type of person coming before me (in the courtroom). There are those severely addicted to drugs, completely unemployed and unemployable, with no hope whatsoever in their life, just completely lost, and some have severe mental illnesses. So, you go from that strata to those who are enormously rich, the one percent on the planet.

Having dealt (from childhood in the Central Area) with so many different groups and so many different personalities; you learn that there are different approaches to dealing with problems and challenges. You then you have more compassion, more sympathy when dealing with people’s needs and problems.

I would venture a guess that is not a gift that’s replicated widely in Federal Courts across the country.

I can tell you that (laughs) without question. I attend our Judge’s conferences and when you look at the sea of faces, the representation of diversity is not that great. The bulk of people from ethnic backgrounds at these conferences are a lot older than I am. They are senior judges, then there’s a big gap. A big concern is what’s the future (of the higher judiciary) going to look like because the bench really makes a lot of determinations about what happens in this country.

Everyone talks about the power of Congress but the reality is what happens on the bench. Congress can pass a law but it’s the Supreme Court who is the final determiner of how it’s supposed to be interpreted. People make a big issue about who the President is, but people should be just as focused on who your Supreme Court justices will be.

That is of concern because it takes an extraordinary person to be open to learning about what vast economic difference means if they’ve spent their whole life in a certain strata. There’s a whole set of assumptions that comes with never leaving your field of birth and comfort.

Well, I’ll give a pretty simplistic example. An African American woman came in on a question of probation violation. The issue was whether or not she was going to be released on bail. The question was her employment. The prosecution and probation officer said she didn’t have reliable employment. She told me that her occupation was to do hair.

In my neighborhood there were several woman who made their livelihood, raised their families, and raised their kids doing hair. They worked out of their basement with customers coming in at all hours of the night and early in the morning. Those women made a good living, everyone was poor but they still had a living. So for me, the fact that she was doing hair was clearly an opportunity for this woman to be able to survive, to pay her fines and take care of her family. But in that court setting it wasn’t (seen as) justifiable employment. Ultimately, she was released but without my cultural experience, how I grew up, with that exposure to different means of survival, that woman would have stayed in jail.

Supreme Court Justices. Tim Sloan. AFP. Getty Images ©

With all of the consequences that would have had for her family and her future.

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Given its size relative to the entire city, a disproportionate number of people from the Central Area have been phenomenally successful. That’s despite starting from poverty. Whether it’s like Dorothy and Fred (Cordova) who formed a national organization, or Martin Selig who started very humbly and became an enormously successful businessman not to mention all the artists… there are many, many examples from the Central Area and particularly Garfield (High).

That might have been because of the expectation that we weren't going to succeed because we grew up in the Central Area. I can’t tell you how many times I would get into a conversation and when people would hear you lived in the Central District, it’s almost like you were looked down upon. It seemed to be assumed that you came from a lower class or a dangerous part of the city. 

That was the antithesis of my experience as a young child. My life experiences growing up in the Central District helped form who I am as an individual today. The challenges particularly during the '60s and '70s had a profound effect in terms of my growth. Seeing how people were treated, how people had to fight for the just the barest existence and expectation of where they were going to go in life. 

Were you old enough to be able to see Dr. King when he came?

I was old enough but I went away to boarding school when I was thirteen years old. So, I was in and out of Seattle for about four years after the age of thirteen.

What year did you leave for boarding school?

I graduated from eighth grade in ’64 and I graduated from high school in ’68.

Those were pretty tumultuous years,

The Civil Rights Law was passed in 1964.

Open Housing Law was passed in ’69? Those were years of big change.

There were huge changes, I’d come home once a month (from boarding school). And in those one-month time periods, there was just so much change happening in the community. In just two or three years, the growth was phenomenal. Some of the challenges came when the Vietnam era started. There was Black Power, the Black Rights Movements started popping up, Black Pride started developing in a profound and positive way.

War Protest. Collection Aaron Dixon.
People felt so much more enriched and better about themselves because now you did have a voice. You could have a collective voice, and that collective voice was dependent upon you, and your neighbors, and the community that you grew up in.

Let’s say hypothetically you had stayed instead of going to boarding school? What do you think your relationship would have been to the Black Panthers if you were immersed in that?

Don’t get me wrong, (despite) the fact that I was gone (at boarding school) I was immersed when I came back home.

It was just a boarding school. Since I was the last of eight kids, my mom wanted me to have the best possible education. My immediate neighborhood was predominantly young boys. A neighborhood with predominantly young boys, well, you get in a lot of trouble that way. Boarding school was her way of trying to get me the best education she could.

It really changed my thought process about the next step in education - it was college for me.  I can’t say that was true for everybody.

In my own family there were family members who attended a year or two of college. I was the first in my family to actually graduate from college. Going to boarding school clearly put on the road map - you’re going to go to college. That it was a realistic opportunity.

That didn't mean you didn't have stumbling blocks like people telling me that I should go into the trades. ‘Your father was a carpenter, you could have a good lifestyle.’ As if that was a be-all and end-all. It was great trade; it was a wonderful profession that took care of our family. Some of my best friends were carpenters. Still, my father pounded into our heads the importance of education. He pounded into our heads that he didn’t want us to have to work the way he had to work.

He would come home after a long shift completely drenched in mud. He would have to clean himself off before he could even come in the house; he was that muddy and dirty from the work he had to do. I knew how hard he worked. I saw what he had to do. I’d go to job sites with him because that was our form of baby-sitting. He would give me some wood, a stack of nails and tools to play with. That could have been my career path, following my father but he convinced me there were more opportunities.

Judge Jones Father, Quincy Delight Jones Sr., Collection Judge Jones.

I’ve heard that for black carpenters the work available was fairly limited.

My dad was what you would call a finish carpenter; he had extraordinary skills and capabilities. He could do pretty much anything in the house from what I’ve heard. When he was in Chicago there was a structure for the black tradesmen. They would be able to work and perform their trade up until the point when they would be qualified as journeymen and get journeyman pay. At that point, the foreperson would let them know, ‘Jones, you stay at home for a few days.’ He would stay at home for a few days until they would tell you to come back. And you’d return to do the same type of work but you would never get to journeymen status because the Jim Crow effect was in full play - to prevent you from getting that higher level of compensation.

When we were kids he used to tell us stories about the gangsters in Chicago. We’d watch the Untouchables, and he would start naming names and we would look at him like he was totally insane. It wasn’t that he was connected to the mafia or to organized crime by any means but a lot of gangsters in Chicago would pay the tradesmen because they could get the work for cheaper wages. That was the reality. My dad realized that he couldn't continue to help care for his family at that level of compensation. There was an even an article in the newspaper that had a picture of my dad on the sawhorse with a saw that said ‘Jim Crow denies carpenter opportunity to apply his trade.’ I never forgot how hard it was for him.

He moved the whole family to Sinclair Heights, the projects over in Bremerton, and worked at the naval shipyard for several years. Eventually, the family moved to Seattle, two of my sisters were born in Bremerton. Then, they moved to Seattle.

Can you tell me a little bit about your boarding school, what was the racial diversity there? 
When I got to St. Martin’s in Olympia 100% of the African American population just about shared locker space. There was a kid that was right next to me; he was the only other African-American. What they were trying to do was trying to diversify the boarding school. They had created scholarships that were combination of diversification and grades.

Two unidentified boys play in the snow at Sinclair Heights. Kitsap County Black

I thought I was going down there for a visit. I went to sleep in the car. When I woke up I was 50 miles away, I said, ‘This is a long ways to be going to school.’ There was only one other African-American in my class. There was another who was a sophomore. That was it in the whole school. After the second year, the other African American stopped going, because they cut the funding in half. I had to work when I was in school. My mom helped pay because by then my dad had retired.

It was tough. It was tough culturally... I came home for Thanksgiving and I cried. I said I wasn’t going back. I couldn’t take it because people made fun of the way I laughed, and dressed, the way I spoke - some of our cultural differences were just as vast as an ocean. It was tough.

My brothers came home and said ‘No, you're going to stick this out because it’s the best opportunity for you to get a good education, for you to stay out of trouble.’ I’m not saying I was in trouble but we were having fun (laughs). We were kids.

That school… it changed, it changed my life. I learned how to get through tough times, how to deal with people who weren't hateful but they were just insensitive to other cultures. So, they’d say things that were completely racist. I would challenge people; there were always discussions.

I had two sets of clothes I would wear - the school clothes with cuffed pants and for at home the platform shoes and the look that everyone was wearing in the neighborhood. It was just a whole different experience. I would catch the Greyhound bus to Seattle and as soon as I could ran in the house and change my clothes. I would go out and hang with my boys. We’d just go run the streets.

I wonder about what it costs you psychically and emotionally to have to forge your way through all these misunderstandings and mis-readings. The resulting amount of stress, I can only imagine that is hard.

I grew up in such a culturally diverse neighborhood in the Central District. I had the comfort of home. I could go down to my neighbor’s house down the street; that family was Filipino. I could go down to another friend’s house who was Chinese, another one was Japanese. Everybody on my block was African American. There were all these different cultures with different looking people. It was a degree of comfort with ethnicity. Then, all the sudden you are extracted from that zone of comfort and are transported into a different world where everyone around you is 100 percent white.

Collection St. Martin's. Photo: Ted Yearian. Lacey Historical Commission

I got a great education. I can also tell you there were challenges because of the stereotypes people had about African Americans, about the ideas of your career prospects or life opportunities. I had a coach for college counseling. I would sit outside his door waiting and hear what he had to say to the two people in front of me about their college opportunities. When it was my turn he said, ‘Well, Richard I think you have a better chance of going into trades than wasting your time on education because for a colored kid with a college degree; what are you going to do with it? If you go into the trades, your dad had a good living, he took care of your family and you’d have a great career. You could be a foreman or a supervisor.’ That’s where he capped my potential. I had a smart mouth in high school so I called him a couple of names and walked out of his room.

I remember saying as I walked out of his room, ‘If that’s the best you think I can do, then our conversation is over.’ Then, I had to go to other people to look for advice, coaching and counseling in terms of what opportunities I could pursue. I got accepted to Seattle University and I just took off from there.

I’m trying to imagine, you’re in an ivory tower boarding school and then you come home, the conversations happening on the street are about the Black Panthers.

Oh, it was totally different.

So not only do you have to deal with the split of being in this school, then you have to deal with the split of all these conversations that your neighborhood friends are probably deeply involved in. Those worlds couldn’t have been further apart.

It’s funny because I would come back over the summer months. During the summer, I would have changed in terms of what I’d absorbed in my own neighborhood, in my own community. I would come back to school and then have to readjust. Not that you were a sell out, not by a long shot, but you had to readjust. They had to readjust too, to you as well, because your thought process had developed, and you would interact with folks in our community with different topics.

When we were in classrooms we would have discussions, and a lot of time there is comfort in numbers. When civil rights topics would come up I would have professors ask me, ‘Is it okay that we talk about this or do you want us to skip this part in history?’ I asked, ‘First of all, why are you asking me for permission? You don't ask anybody else in the class for permission to leap frog over any component of our lessons.’

A couple professors of did that very thing. Then, they would look to me as if I had authority on what was happening in the (Black Power) Movement(s). I had people ask me if they were going to riot in the summer. It got to where I’d almost have to joke and say ‘Let me get my calendar out so I can tell you exactly what day the riots are going to happen, so you can stay out of the Central District.’ That’s how dumb the questions were that I was asked.

Demonstration. Collection Aaron Dixon.

How does it feel to be made to speak for things that you’re not even a part of?

I guess a different way of looking at it is, I learned how to exist in a lot of different environments, and how to survive. And I think that’s helped me over the course of my life, because I’ve done a lot of different things in the practice of law. I’ve worked at big firms; I’ve worked as a prosecutor, in government agencies, as a judge, dealing with different levels of people. It’s that ability to understand different environments, different circumstances and different people. And to be able to listen to different approaches and to be able to create in your own mind, your own thoughts about how you feel about a particular topic. I think that helps me.

So you become your own North Star.

In many ways you have to be. You have to be. You have to be. That’s the work we do everyday here (at the Federal Court). You’re not being cavalier with the approach you take to the law, you have to follow the law. At the same time, many times you have to steer the ship when there is no law, there is no authority so you have to make the determinations which direction, which way we’re going go with it. 

There were fascinating things that took place at some of my places of employment. Walt Hubbard used to be the Director of this program called CARITAS, Community Action Remedial Instruction Touring Assistant Services. In my freshman year of college, I got a job there. Shortly after that Bob Santos took over. He and I go way back ‘cause he taught me boxing when I was in grade school. I’ve known his whole family since I was in fifth and sixth grade.

Later when I worked there, Bob set the program at St. Peter Clavers Center. It was open opportunity for diverse thought and community activity. Bob’s always been a community activist. We had our own responsibilities - recruiting tutors and bringing kids in. We had breakfast programs; we did a little bit of everything for this program. We were surrogate parents for some of the kids who didn’t have fathers. We put on Halloween parties for the kids who didn’t have any place to go. We gave out Christmas gifts. So, it was pretty much non-stop. Even to this day some of the kids who saw us as surrogate parents (they were six - eight years old and we were 18 – 20), they still come when they get in trouble, they still call when they need help; they still need assistance.

Richard A. Jones. Professional portrait. Lawyer. Collection:Richard A. Jones
We also had groups coming through there, like the CCA, Central Contractors Association. That was Mike Ross and Tyree Scott. They would come in and meet. For the first two meetings we would come in and listen to what was being discussed. Their approach was similar to the Dr. King approach of non-violence just go to construction sites (and carry signs). So, you’d hear these conversations and sometimes we would go and march and then come back. At one point, things started to change, there was huge big meeting. A big group of folks came up to St. Peter Claver Center and talked about what the activities were going to be. The discussion started to include perceptions of what violence might occur. I saw folks, kids, that morning before they left, perfectly healthy, perfectly fine. I’ll never forget one kid came back and half his face was swollen from a gash on the top of his head down his cheek, with part of his mouth and nose damaged. And Tyree brought him in and said, ‘this is what happened. This is what violence we face.’ Some of those kids had been (put) in jail.

Then everybody in the community was just shocked and outraged. All he was doing was just trying to get the jobs for people. He wasn’t doing anything but saying, ‘we’re a peaceful march. We’re a peaceful demonstration.’ Then the people in the Central District were so upset and angry about the violence, that changed how they approached demonstrations.

We had other groups there like the War Without Peace Council and other people were calling in bomb threats. I remember one time running through the building, telling people to leave but they voted they were going to stay. I had to get the kids out of the building. I ran through the building and went to the bathroom and there was a shoebox in the stall. So I ran back and shut the building down. The bomb squad came in and someone had just to disrupt things, had taken Silly Putty, ran a wire around it, and tied it into a clock to make it look like it a legitimate bomb. It was just to disrupt the meetings taking place.

I grew up with people trying to fight for peaceful causes and then you saw these reactions of hate, trying to stop positive movement, positive growth, and positive development. I think it’s also the fear people have about the unknown.

As I said earlier, we lived on 22nd right across the street from Garfield High School. And I remember a group called the Students For Democratic Society, SDS, went to all the inner city schools - Garfield, Franklin, Meany, and Washington Junior High School. They collected a whole bunch of different folks, and they came over to Garfield High School. It was completely peaceful in the afternoon. People were giving speeches, the SDS gave a statement on what they were trying to achieve. Then, SDS left around 6:30 or so. Folks had been there for a couple of hours. Then about dusk a helicopter flew over while people were playing drums and other people were giving speeches.

Richard Jones. Rotary Boy's Club Award.
Richard Jones. Seattle Prep Speech Tournament 1963
Richard Jones. Century 21 Reading Club Award. 
Again, it was completely non-violent. When the helicopter flew over, the Seattle Police Department said, ‘this is unlawful assembly. You are directed to disperse. You have five minutes to disperse.’ The helicopter flashed the lights all over the place to try and intimidate people into leaving. It just reinforced the commitment to not leaving. This is our neighborhood; weren’t doing anything wrong. We had the right to assemble.

I ran across the street and jumped the back fence to tell my parents what was going on over here. I remember looking over at the end of the block and I saw a cop car on 22nd and Jefferson. I ran to the end of the block and as far as I could see were police cars. They were four deep, it was a riot squad, they were moving in. I ran back to try and find my friends and let them know what’s about to go down, to give them an exit strategy in case it starts going crazy. Before we even had that conversation the helicopter came back. It looked like a scene out of Vietnam (the War). They started shooting tear gas out of this helicopter. So much of it landed, it was difficult to see. I remember people getting hit in the face with tear gas. I remember people running, trying to throw away the (canisters). Then, more police came and they were shooting tear gas too. It was just total chaos. The guys that I was with, everyone just split up because it was just pandemonium.

I remember just running up Terrace (Street), all the sudden I heard a gun shot. I hit the ground; lay there for a while and when I didn’t hear anymore, I literally crawled back home. When I got home, I saw police officers coming up the street, they were six plus, they had riot sticks, they had their (riot) gear on. The police were picking up every glass bottle out of fear people were going to make Molotov cocktails or throw bottles at people. They told me, ‘Go in your house.’ On the front lawn of my house I said, ‘I live here. I don’t have to go inside my home. I have the right to stand on my front porch.’ Then, one of the Officers made a move towards me. I had to run in the house. And so, it was that type of action that caused a reaction.

All the sudden, the more aggressive and violent activity started (rioting) and that lasted for several days before things finally started to cool down. So you have to reflect back and ask if the (police) approach had been different, not responding with aggressiveness and violence; would that crowd simply have dissipated on its own?

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. It, though, helped me in terms of formulating my own ideas about: what’s right, what’s wrong, and the freedoms that people are supposed to have in this country.

Judge Jones' father, Quincy Delight Jones,  Sr.'s  Hat. Collection Richard Jones

In many ways, I look at what’s happening now across the United States. I look back at how we grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s and it’s almost as if we’re returning back to what we had before… as if that’s the only way to try and make change come about. I’m certainly not advocating violence because I have to deal with individuals that are charged, possibly criminally depending on what they’ve done. At the same time, when you are up against the wall, you feel that there is no hope, you feel that there is no recourse, then you figure we have to do something. That enormous frustration makes people feel they have to do something. And so, I pray to God that we can do something in a way that is positive, that’s energetic, so that it benefits everyone, so that people don’t resort to violence to try and bring about change.

Jumping back to the Peter Claver Center were the Black Panthers doing the breakfast program there?

No. The Panthers had their program on 34th right off of Union where their offices were. They had different breakfast programs. We looked at that idea and thought, that’s a great idea; Bob Santos arranged for a limited amount of funds to make food available. We didn’t have it on regular basis. 

Kids would show up (at the Claver Center) no matter what we did, kids would show up. At Christmas time, we'd get presents for them, it wasn't great big gifts but we'd have them so that kids could enjoy what other kids in other communities have. We'd have Halloween parties, we'd build coffins and put up black crepe paper, we'd have Easter egg hunts so that kids experience holiday parties. We wanted to be sure the kids in our neighborhood in the Central District could enjoy the exact same thing we'd seen kids in other neighborhoods enjoying. 

The Panthers come up in almost every interview; some people felt the violence was counterproductive while at the same time the Panthers were doing positive things. They were making a strong statement because being non-violent didn’t protect Dr. King. Still, it seems like there was a split in the neighborhood regarding the Panthers. Did you hear those conversations? Do you remember what you thought?

The difference for me was I grew up with a lot of people who became Panthers. I didn’t have that fear that something bad was going to happen to me, or to our neighborhood. Besides, the Black Panthers used to have parties all the time. They were good parties.

Yeah, I’ll bet. I know Aaron (Dixon). (laughs)

(laughs) Aaron, Elmer, Michael… There were so many different folks and their hearts were trying to do the right thing. They just saw that doing it with through non-violence wasn’t necessarily going to bring about change. There were discussions, we’ve tried the Dr. King approach, we’ve tried the non-violent approach and we want folks to know that we’re prepared to do violence, and to defend ourselves if we have to. There were sandbags in the windows in the Black Panther Party offices. That terrified people because people looked at the Panthers as some kind of terrorist organization back then.

In our neighborhood, in our community there was a clearly defined split, some saw the Panthers with fear that taking a violent approach that would cause retaliation against the whole African American community. That was realistic because if a few were causing problems the reaction from outside forces might be that everyone might have to pay. There was that component that said we can be much more progressive without the threat or fear of violence. Then there were those who said, ‘we’ve tried that approach. We’re not getting anywhere; we’re not getting there fast enough. Some of the components that came from the Black Power Movement on the more aggressive side were positive, they instilled pride in us. I mean, we could wear naturals (hair), we could wear our style of dress, (we could own) our comfortableness in terms of who we were as black folks. We could take comfort in knowing that we were a people making progress. Look at all our history. Part of the Panther’s education program was to teach kids pride, to feel that we do have a history whether or not it was taught in the schools, and to understand, you do have a history. The Panther’s education program taught them black history and indoctrinated them about our history. We do have a history and that was certainly not a bad thing. A lot of positives came out of that experience back then.

I talked to Mike Tagawa. He ran the (Panther’s) education program with another man. He is obviously (of) Japanese (descent); he was born in the camps (Minidoka). So he understood that to understand what was happening in the neighborhood, they had to move from theory to relevant discussions about history. That was where the education program actually worked.

Another example will be Larry Gossett. He and Bob Santos, were called the Gang of Four. He’s got a book out now.

I bought it. It’s interesting and a beautiful book (The Gang of Four).

People could look at them and say that group of radicalized individuals, look at the benefits and positives just those two folks brought into our community: Bob Santos and Larry Gossett.

In Mr. Ike Ikeda’s interview he said that, ‘because we are so few (minorities in Seattle) we had to reach across the aisle.’ Whereas in Los Angeles, with big groups of ethnic communities so there is not that reaching across the aisle in the way there was here. Not only were our Black Panthers very different, I think that reaching across the aisle and finding a common cause was very different here.  As people get dispersed it’s my fear that that working together as an ideal gets lost.

I look at the Central District now. (pause) The neighborhood has changed so much. It doesn’t look like the same neighborhood.

Liberty Bank Staff. Collection Michelle Purnell-Hepburn

I know you’ve heard the whole discussion on gentrification in the Central District. It used to… (long pause) it was all ethnic. It was just a completely diverse population. That’s transitioning now (pause). Back during ‘white flight’ when everyone left to go to Mercer Island, to Bellevue, to get out of the Central District (long pause) Now it has transitioned to a point where the economy is a driving force. Now, it’s chic now to live close to downtown, close to buses, close to educational opportunities, close to your job (pause) it’s not even a question of… could the Central District boom. (Back in the 1960s) It was a little bit of everything.

Yeah, it’s sad to see the things that you really love and think are special moving away. A lot of the people I’ve interviewed no longer live in the neighborhood. Still, (pause) each person in a way contributed to that history.

For most people, you're taking on assignments and projects, pursuing your own career or what you want to do in life. You are not trying to make history. You are not trying to be a leader. It's just you see something that needs to be done so you go and do it. You see people that need help and you help them. (pause) Then you see folks that grew up the same way you did and it's a question of reaching back and lifting up. It's not a question of saying, 'I got mine; you get yours.' 

That’s not what we learned in the Central District. We grew up as a family. (pause) We talk about it takes a village... It was truly a village. I mean, everyone in the block knew each other. (pause) Before my mom even got home, she knew everything we’d done that day because as she walked home, she’d heard about it before she got to the front door.

We’d wonder, how could she possibly know all this? But the neighbors, they helped take care of us. If we got out of line, if we were smart mouthing somebody (long pause) they’d let us know. They’d chastise us. If they saw us doing something that wasn’t right, they would correct us and tell us, ‘Don’t be doing that.’

There were a lot of boys in our neighborhood, maybe nine on the block. This is on my block. We all ran together at different times, did different things - it wasn’t gang activities… It was just your friends who you play with outside. If somebody new came to the neighborhood, you knew right away.
Central District PeeWee Football. Collection Judge Jones

(long pause) One time we were playing baseball in front of the house. I was playing second base, center field. This new kid he’d been here maybe two or three days so he came and sat on the side. I looked over but didn’t pay any attention to him. Then a few minutes later, BAM! I dropped to my knees, and grabbed my head. He had taken a wine bottle and broke it over my head.

I had never seen this kid before in my life, my head was cut and bleeding. I turn around and look at him, like, what? I couldn’t imagine, I was just shell shocked that he had just done this. He immediately took off and ran back to his house. (pause) You know, the community had its own way of dealing with stuff like that. There wasn’t violence like that all the time. It wasn’t a regular course of business hitting people with a wine bottle.

Right, because you wouldn’t tell me about it because it wouldn’t stick out as memorable.

(What I want to convey) is just the idea that there was a little bit of everything happening in our neighborhood in terms of how you take care of each other, how you support each other… (long pause)

You were a kid, but how did the community handle that?

Well, that wasn’t about the community (chuckle) it was about… (pause) it was… we took care of it.

Right. The kids, the boys.

Right, the kids took care of it.

The parents didn’t come out?

My parents talked to his parents (pause) and (pause) that didn’t really go well. His parents weren’t really receptive to the idea that their child had done anything wrong or that he could be that violent. (pause) Our parents told us that something’s wrong with him. (long pause) and so (pause) then we just dealt with it (laughs).

Okay (laughs). I have a feeling that we’ll just have to drop that one.

Yes, I would drop that one.

I had brothers… I can guess…

Okay, I’ll leave it to your imagination. It’s…like I said; you take care of things. He didn’t hit anybody else in my neighborhood. I don’t remember their occupancy in that house being too long.

Judge Jones' father, Quincy Delight Jones Sr., Negro Baseball League.
Collection Richard A. Jones

Yeah, that didn’t come from nowhere.

He had some other issues. So, I never played second base after that (laughs).

So you guys played baseball. What other games did people play?

We had a TV, but during the summer months after your parents left in the morning we pretty much just hung all day with some of the organizations that were in our community like the East Madison Y, the Rotary Boy’s Club. They had a lot of sports activities, organized sports, and if you wanted to play back then… We had our baseball team, The Blue Notes, and we played C.A.Y.A. and had the Capitol Hill PeeWee football team. I have a photograph of our PeeWee team if you want to take a picture of it.

I remember when I brought home the practice uniform, my mom wouldn’t let me bring it in the house. It was so raggedy, so funky - she said, That is not coming in the house. But for me, it was a sense of pride because I had a uniform. It made a difference. I had a uniform, I had pads, I had gear. All the boys in my neighborhood were on that team and we were all playing together.

Where did they play?

On the field of Garfield High. Our game uniforms were new, but for practice you just inherited what everybody else didn’t want. When we put on our game uniforms, it was with such a sense of pride that all these kids from the Central District were coming out, we went out and fought and played. It was (pause) it was a challenge because we were trying to not just to represent our team; we represented the Central District.

The Central District Youth Association, so it was a whole different level of pride that we had when we played.  We played mostly kids who were outside of the Central District. We won, we came back, and we celebrated. It was something that we accomplished, our parents were real proud.

Our coach, Charles Huey, and some other folks recognized that there was too much energy in this neighborhood not to be geared in a positive direction. When I talk about the whole concept of unity and a bigger family in the Central District, that’s what it was all about. If your kids wanted to play, if your kids wanted to have something structured, they’d make it available. Garfield used to have used board games and other things, there was always something to do over at Garfield like baseball, football, or pick up ball, and if nothing else, just go get some cardboard and slide down the grass. You were just being boys. You were just being boys and there was absolutely no fear. I mean, I could go anywhere I wanted.

Central District PeeWee Football. Collection Judge Jones     

For anyone at that time in the Central District there wasn’t a question of, you can’t go there (because of crime). Now, there were places where (pause) there were activities that they didn’t want me to be around. For example, down on 14th and Yesler (Way), for years there was a lot of prostitution where the Urban League building used to be on 14th and Yesler. Women would stand on the street corners and there were pimps, you just knew that because when you grow up… One thing that we knew is that whether the people were pimps, or drug dealers, or just in the whole criminal element (pause) even they had a different level of respect. They were always making sure that the kids didn’t get involved and they’d (see us and) say, ‘you get out of here.’

So there is that protective (community) instinct that even they had. They knew that they were doing wrong, but didn’t want us to do wrong and that’s what they would tell us. Now, they would try and ‘floor show’ their lifestyle - the big car and multiple women in the car. (pause) And for some, they were what role models were going to look like.

Still, even the pimps had a protective mentality about trying to keep some of the kids out. But like I said, I could go across Garfield playfield at 8:30-9 o’clock at night when it was completely dark. I would run across the park and I didn’t have this mentality that something bad was gonna happen to me.

Yet, when I was outside of the Central District, people would ask if I could walk around the neighborhood?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ The Central District was such a foreign environment to a lot of folks around the city…It was just a different element, a different environment that they were afraid of.

Now, you were not at Garfield, so you might not know this, was that division within the school caused from when they started the AP, did that start then or was that later?

No, that was later, to my knowledge. It’s almost that there are two different schools (in the same building), and the kids will tell you that. There are two different schools – for some it’s like a ‘pass-through’ opportunity and others are actively engaged the academic side.

Does ‘pass-through’ mean we’re just going to promote you, no matter your skill level?

You’re just going through school but I’m not placing that just on Garfield, not by a long shot. Because I think that happens in many respects in almost all of our public schools across the city and across this country. At the same time, (pause) when we are talking about my neighborhood, that’s my point of reference for what’s happening in Garfield and what’s happening at Franklin High School.

Garfield High. Photo Madeline Crowley ©

I hear the kids tell me these things (about high school), then that causes consternation for me in terms of what can be done. How do we change that? They’ve got a great principal over there, he is trying to do what he can to work with the kids. You can only do so much as an instructor, as an advisor, because half your education also comes from what happens when you get home, that push of the educational component.

What did you first think you were going to study?

Actually, my major at Seattle U was going to be Sociology. I had this idea in my mind that I was going to get an education and then come back and help change (things in society). That's how I'd grown up. I mean the '60s through the early part of the '70s were all about trying to create change. 

Graduating in ’68, right smack dab in the middle of all those growing (political and activism) activities. Sociology was a degree that I wanted to pursue. I eventually switched gears to political science.

I thought that that would be the approach to take, and then I realized that I would probably wind up as an educator or in government, and… well, I wanted to do something different.

That something different looked closer to law school. The motivation for law school was really a question of the negative experience. The negative experience was instructors. For example, they’d say to a particular student, ‘Now, you would make a great lawyer…’ This happened when I was taking a business law course ‘…you’d make a good lawyer because your uncle is a lawyer, your dad’s a lawyer, you mom’s a lawyer.’ I didn’t have that in my background and I kept hearing that enough times. I saw the counseling for people to go into law, because of their family connections and the hierarchy.

Now, Seattle U was a great school for me… but individual teachers would sometimes do that. So, I thought, I’m going to show them. I’ll show you, whether you think I have the capacity or not. It was as if (pause) the gauntlet had been thrown down; this is something that you are not supposed to go into. I though, I can do this. I know I can do this.

I remember once, I took an English course. The professor said, ‘Your paper is supposed to be geared around a real-life experience.’ I wrote about my real-life experience about the riot that had taken place in the Central District.

Seattle University Campus Garden. Photo Madeline Crowley ©

I got on the bus on Broadway, the bus turned on 12th the driver said, “We’re not going into the Central District because they’re having a riot.” He and I had words. I got off the bus and walked home. I saw somebody having a shootout with the cops, on the end of my block on 22nd and Jefferson. Somebody was shooting down from an apartment on the west side of the street at the cops who had their guns pointing up. One cop actually got shot. I remember seeing him. I thought he’d been shot in the head but he’d actually got shot in the butt. Just the degree of violence during that time period…  so I wrote about what I had seen, what I had experienced. How I had seen people throwing Molotov cocktails at cars. I’d seen people getting pulled out of their cars, how police officers would come around four deep. One kid was bouncing a basketball, completely unconnected to the violence and a cop jumped out of the car, snatched this kid, threw him in the car and took off, his ball still bouncing, his bag on the ground.

That was the paper I had written about my life experience, the instructor gave me a B minus. She told me this is not a creative writing course. The material and the writing were done well but you need to follow the course instructions. When she gave my paper back, I was so incensed that I sat there and I waited ‘til everyone else left. I said, Miss so-and-so, we need to talk. I want you to come home with me tonight. I want you to walk my block, walk my streets.

It’s obvious that you don’t have a clue of what’s going on around in the community right around you. You’re teaching here on 12th & Jefferson while I’m living 10 blocks away on Jefferson. You need to get an education just like you’re trying to get me an education. She was floored. And we had this conversation…  and it got to the point where she started crying because I told her how insensitive she was to some of the students. This was the time of Affirmative Action and trying to diversify the campuses. So part of her education had to be an understanding that different folks are coming to this school with completely different backgrounds than hers. If you’re going to teach in this community, you need to know about this community. Well, she didn’t take me up on my offer, obviously, to come home and see my world.

I don’t even recall her adjusting my grade to be honest with you, but it was just the reality of disconnect despite the small distance between where she lived compared to how I lived. We had many more discussions, as was taking place all on campuses all across the country at that time. It was part of us having to educate our educators about what life was all about. I don’t know if it was because of that conversation but she changed and developed as a person. Later, she went onto go into law and practiced community-oriented law. Now did I change her? Was it just her experience as an educator at that time?

I don’t know. As someone coming from the CD, I felt it was my responsibility to educate people (outside that community) that there were bright, smart people with as much capacity and potential as everybody else in that school. And she and everybody else (at SU) needed to open up their eyes.

Seattle University Campus Chapel. Photo Madeline Crowley ©

From that time, communication took place with the school (and students from the CD and other communities) and so the school has grown in phenomenal ways. It has provided me with a great education to, it provided a great education to so many other kids that came from the Central District and the rest of the country. It was just a question of everybody has to grow in different ways.

She literally thought you’d made that up? That it was creative writing?

Yes, that was devastating.

I guess that it makes sense, right? It’s really hard for people with experience of the police has been only one way… Maybe the only good thing that’s come out of the last year of things (police shootings, Black Lives Matter, etc.) is that people who have never thought about this because it’s not in their experience are starting to think about it. It’s a conversation that needs to happen. I think it was so foreign to her experience she couldn’t imagine that it was true.


She cried when she realized how far she was away from your experience.

She was a fairly young professor herself, she had come from that world of academia where everything she learned about life was contained in a binder. So, in terms of real life it just wasn’t there. It was a time of growth for a whole lot of folks.

I do hope that we’re coming again into a time (of growth) like that again. That there is a national conversation about things that have been discussed forever in the black community because it directly affects them, and now that conversation is being dispersed in the larger community. I think that’s a good thing. 

I think what it's doing is creating more dialogue about race. Race is a tough, tough topic. We just had a trial not too long ago where one of the topics in jury selection was a conversation about Implicit Bias and how that comes into play in term of your ability to be a fair and impartial as a juror in hearing a case or in a trial involving an African American male. I can tell you with that case, some of the Jurors' degree of reaction to even having that conversation about race was extraordinarily difficult. 

Judge of the Year. Collection Richard Jones

Why? Because they felt, in your impression, they felt accused by that conversation?

(It seemed) Why do we even need to be having this conversation?

That’s the conversation we’re having at this level of judges in different pockets across the county, to ask how can we ensure that our system is free of bias and is free of taint particularly when you see the disproportionality of African Americans and Hispanics that are incarcerated? Not that we’re going to fix that problem, not that we’re going to resolve that - but the more conversations we have about the issues, hopefully, the more opportunities for fairness we can bring about.

Different experiences. One of the gifts I have from having grown in up in the Central District, is to learn how to deal with challenges, to know how to deal with confrontation. When other folks would play the Race Card on you, you’d figure out how to get around it. You know, a lot of times people feel it’s only People of Color who play the Race Card but that’s not always the case…

Can you explain that because there are people who feel it’s always the other way around?

I’ll give you an example. When I was in law school I had clerked at the US Attorney’s office. I had a great experience. At that time it (the economy) was pretty difficult and I had two years clerking experience. One of the biggest firms in the city called me and asked me to apply.

I was pretty excited at the opportunity. I went through the whole process: send in your resume; come in for multiple interviews. The gentleman who recruited me kept calling, said everything was going well. They called my references and everything was going really well.

On the day I was expecting to get the job offer, the US Attorney Stan Pitkin, came down to the office where the law clerks were. He said, Jones, “Come out for a second. I want to be the first one to congratulate you because everyone here gave you glowing recommendations for you to get this job. I want you to know we’re proud of you.”

Back then the office was small, maybe fewer than 15 lawyers. I was excited when I went down to Rossellini’s 410 (photo) to meet with the Hiring Partner. Now, I’d heard usually three or four people would come to offer the position over lunch. I walked in the restaurant and the hiring partner was sitting there alone with his head down. I sat down and  said, “You know, I can read good news and I can read bad news. This doesn’t look like it’s good news. I’d rather dispense with the uncomfortable lunch, and perhaps we can talk about why we’re here today.” 

Washington Journal. Article on Hiring Partner incident.
Collection Richard Jones

He went right into it, he said, “Richard, I want you to know, I made a recommendation for you to be hired but the Senior Partners just didn’t know how our clients would react to having a black lawyer represent them. I hope you don’t take this personally.”

I looked at him. I was just floored, one, that he was so stupid to tell me something like that… in his mind, though, he was being honest. He was playing the Race Card of showing me how he was trying to be the bigger person by making the recommendation but the other members of his firm didn’t feel comfortable. I was supposed to accept that. My immediate reaction? I left. How do you go back and explain to your US Attorney that I didn’t get the job because I’m black. So, I had to have that burn in my belly, how do I explain this; how do I deal with this challenge?

Yeah, and the humiliation.

And the humiliation. 

I went to Charles E. Smith who became a eventually a Supreme Court Justice and Lem Howell who was a civil rights lawyer, both of them separately and independently, and told them I was thinking about bringing a law suit. Both men gave me the same advice, they each said, ‘I’ll take your case. You could win; it’ll be an extraordinarily difficult process. Though, the outcome if you practice in this city is you will always be blackballed and known as the black lawyer who sued to get his job.’

I had a young family. There was a question of what do you do with that? Sometimes I think maybe I should have been the hero and taken on this litigation. But I had law school debt, we were trying to survive, trying to get a job, had the bar exam in front of me… You’ve got so many other distractions you have in your life. That was one you just have to have as part of your history; that you just have to move past. You have to say my chance to defeat this, to have this not be an impediment to my future will come, but it just won’t be now.

I don’t know how many other people have had to suffer the same type of challenges maybe not as outright and overt as I had to experience. Nonetheless, it was still something that was put on my plate. 

And so you deal with that by getting actively involved in making sure nobody else has to go through that, by being deeply involved in community programs to try and help other young students of color. We've created job fairs, we've created clerkship programs, we still do different types of diversity training to make sure kids coming through law school have mentors so they can have someone they can talk to, someone who can help them move up the chain, up the ladder of opportunity, as well as encouraging them to be mentors later too. 

Swearing in of Judge Jones. Collection Richard Jones

I wonder, did you run into the people from that firm again?

That firm was one of the biggest ones in the city. I can tell you it wasn’t Bogle and Gates because I did work for them. I saw the partner a couple of times after that but by then it was just history. To show you how things come around, later there was a large, large case where someone sued that firm. I was the trial judge. Now, if I had been a vengeful person, if I had been truly been a vengeful person and wanted pay back, that would have been my opportunity to do so but at the same time …

You wouldn’t be a very good judge…

No. I had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the State of Washington and the United States and to uphold my duty of doing justice. Would I be fulfilling my duty and responsibility by getting vengeance and revenge? You have to make your decisions on the Law, on the facts - not your personal beliefs. That’s when ethics come into play.

Yes, you have to look at yourself in the mirror…

Every single day. Exactly. It’s a question of your survival skills; you learn survival skills in different ways. Also, how you grow up. The challenges you face in life make you a much stronger person. Then later, when you confront adversity of epic proportions you have the intestinal fortitude and the mental capacity to figure out how to deal with this issue. Not by ducking it, by dealing with it head on. Fear can cause so much lack of progress and opportunity in folks at so many levels. When you’re not afraid of something, you can go into it with full vigor, enthusiasm and pursue it. You can say, I’m going to win, I’m not afraid. I’m going to win.

Ok, but for kids who are starting from that point of fearfulness, how do they get to the point where they say, I’m afraid but I’m going to go forward?

That’s the toughest part of life. You have to have somebody who’s willing to grab your hand; who’s willing to push you and to give you a road map or a guidepost - to create dreams in these kids’ mind. When we get kids in here, I make them all get up on the bench and give them the gavel. We do this all the time. I tell them, I want you to know that everyday when I sit on the bench, I close my eyes, and it seems like just a second ago that I was like you, wondering what will I do with my life? It can go that fast. 

So, I want you to take a picture. I want you to take it home, whether or not you become a judge is not the important thing. I want you to remember this day that you had a chance to feel what it's like to be a judge, to sit in a judge's chair to look out and see your colleagues and classmates in front of you. 

If you think this is power, you can have that same exact kind of power. If you think this is 
a position of change, if you think you can make differences in people's lives, then you can do that. 

Judge Jones' Mother, Elvera Jones. Collection Richard Jones

Use that mental image to help you eliminate and protect against fear. If fear knocks on the door and faith answers - ain’t nobody gonna be there - but you have to believe it yourself. We’re going to help you; we’re create an environment for you to succeed but sometimes when there isn’t that support you’ve got to find a way to do it yourself. That’s what we have to teach this next generation of kids, to create that mental toughness. Our generation, the generation before, had to get through extraordinary challenges just to get a job. I hope that the generations that are coming up who don’t have those roadblocks haven’t gotten soft in the process; they’ve got to be as tough to survive.

It’s interesting listening to you from the moment you got involved with Peter Claver Center and you chose a major, there is this clear through-line of wanting to be involved in making change.

Well, it’s part of our responsibility. I’ve got a card somebody sent me of Muhammad Ali and he said, ‘Part of the rent you have to pay for being on this planet is to giveback.’

I really believe that, the gifts that I’ve received - the work I’ve had the opportunity to do, these were gifts and because they’re gifts, we’ve got a responsibility not just to say, ‘I’ve got mine, you get yours.’ We have a duty and an affirmative obligation to try and reach back and try and help as many kids and many other people as we can to help get to their dream. If you’re not, then you’ve completely failed, you have completely failed at what you can accomplish in life.

The first gifts you received had to have come from your parents. You showed me the saw and the timepiece in your office before the tape was rolling, so can you tell me about the gifts you received from your father?

Sure, sure. When people talked about what we’ve got in the Central District I didn’t have to go out my front door because it came out of my house; I saw how hard my Dad worked, I saw how hard my Mom worked. My Dad was always was passionate about us getting an education. He was also passionate about us, whatever it was that you wanted to become in life. He used to say, ‘I don’t care if it’s a ditch-digger, if it’s a truck driver, it’s a carpenter, a doctor or a lawyer, I don’t care what it is but whatever it is you’re going to become – but if you’re going to do it, you be the best at whatever it is. He used to have this saying, ‘Once the task has once begun, never leave it until it’s done. Be the labor great or small, give the job your very best or not at all.’

That was his mantra, you talk to any of the kids in the family and they all knew that exact statement. That was it was all about. When you felt kicked down or beat down, you had to figure out how to do the very best I can to make this right. Sometimes you feel like giving up, you think about how Daddy had to push. He had to take care of eight kids. Any little stuff you have to worry about is insignificant compared to what he had to do.

The Jones' siblings and his mother, Elvera Jones, at his swearing in as a Judge. Collection Richard Jones

Daddy was a mentor in so many ways; he talked about black history before I even knew what black history was. When we were kids, he’d talk about Ralph Bunche, he’d talk about Satchel Paige, he’d talk about Frederick Douglass. Even in his own world education was important, he took correspondence courses at the Chicago Technical Institute.  They’d send him test or study materials and he’d have to complete a test after he’d worked all day long. He’d study. When he’d get his grades back he’d say, “See this, boy? I worked all day and I still got an A.” It wasn’t a question of just talking about how to getting an education, it was look at what I have to do to get an education, to continue to advance what I can do.

It wasn’t words; it was action.

It was action. That was just part of what he did. As I said, I used to see how hard he worked at what he had to do. He’s always been a role model and an inspiration.

Now we all learn by failing, by making mistakes. What happened when you did make a big mistake?

It depended on whether the mistake was because you were doing something bad; he knew to deal with that right away. There was absolutely no question; you did not mess with Daddy; that was real clear. He wasn’t a great, big, giant, enormous man but it was clear you do not mess with him. I don’t care how big or small you are, if someone is messing with you, you go get a 2”x4.” You deal with it.

That was Daddy’s approach, he wasn’t afraid of anything. No matter what it was, when you didn’t do something right, he was constantly pushing you. He said, ‘Well, you’ve just got to back and do it again. You’re going to have to figure this out. You’re going to make it right. You’re going to have to fix this problem.’ It wasn’t a question of a beat-down, unless you did something bad. That was a whole different category of reaction.

If it was a question of just making a mistake and not doing something because you couldn’t finish it, it was a question of trying to motivate you and help you figure out how 
to do it. He wanted you to be the person that figured out what to do, and how to get around it. He’d help you all he could, to whatever level he could. Still, if you didn’t do well on your homework there was a fear factor. He was just trying to give us a reality check, 
you can go on and do things beyond your imagination but you have to give it up, you have to give 100%.

Judge Jones' father, Quincy Delight Jones Sr., 
Collection Richard Jones

What kind of partnership did he and your Mom have?

(pause) They weren’t always on the same page… My Mom had to work very hard had to be sure we got a quality education. I saw the places she would work and the circumstances. She had to work as a Maid or as a Nurse’s Aide, just to send five bucks down to the boarding school. I knew that meant she had to work a few hours to get that five bucks. So she had her own way and her own style of doing things. She was the disciplinarian also, so everybody had real clear lines of what you could get away with and what you couldn’t get away with. You couldn’t get away with too much in our household.

I wouldn’t say they were always on the same page in terms of parenting styles or what they were doing. Still, in terms of wanting the kids to do well, to have a good opportunity in life that was pretty clear. That was pretty clear.

Did they enjoy each other, did they laugh? They were working really hard and they had kids…

They were working and that was… (long pause) their relationship was just different. I’ll just leave it at that. I’ll just leave it at that.

Ok. It’s not hard to imagine when you think about the load of that kind of work on both of their parts, eight kids, small house, that’s a heavy load.

Yeah. I’ve got letters that my Dad had written to my Mom talking about us as kids, so there’s no question of the depth of the love they had in earlier years. Then with having to raise that many kids while sometimes my Dad would have to take jobs or assignments where he would have to go away to work for a few weeks. At that time, they would take groups of laborers, trades people (in particular carpenters with the skill level he had) they’d have to go and then stay for a few weeks working. That was in the earlier years so as life goes on, and challenges go on, it just became more difficult.

Yes. What were the gifts that your mother gave?

I’d say the gift my mother gave me was her hard work ethic. My mother worked hard ‘cause you figure in terms of raising, and feeding that many kids. And that house was always immaculate my Mom was so (laughs) … had such a fetish about keeping the house clean. She had plastic runners on the carpets. She had plastic on the furniture (laughs) because she thought whatever you buy was supposed to last a lifetime. We didn’t have the resources to go and buy something two and three times.

Right. So your siblings were two girls and six boys?

Four and four.

The Jones' siblings and his mother, Elvera Jones, at his swearing in as a Judge. Collection Richard Jones

That’s a lot of boys.

(laughs) That’s a lot of boys. There were gaps in of our ages because the older brothers and sisters are about sixteen or seventeen years older than I am.

Oh, so you were really the baby.

No question, I was the baby in the family. And so, like I said, they had raised a lot of kids by the time I came around. They were saying, ‘Look - Richard, (laughs) we’ve done this seven times already.’ They were trying to raise me in a way using what they’d learned in the past from the other kids to give me as good an opportunity and minimize some of the other challenges (chuckles) that there are with raising seven other kids.

You then had the benefit of them actually having learned on seven other people. They had a chance to know what they wanted for this child… so you had the benefit of very experienced parenting at that point.

Exactly. But if you look at all the kids in our family, we all had our different levels of success. Everybody came out of 410 22nd Ave with different histories. 410 meant to different things to everybody in our house still everybody came out and did well.

Since you were so much younger, were their other kids still in the house when you were growing up?

When I was a baby, up to my first three or four years, the older sets were in transition in terms of moving out and doing different things. They were in their mid- to late- teens around that age. Most of my childhood was coming up with my two sisters, the two sisters above me. But at the very beginning, it was everybody (in that small house). I mean, my crib was the top dresser drawer. Everybody just worked out where they were going to sleep and live in that house. The attic had no heat. We had a coal furnace in our home until I was in high school. Welch’s Fuel and Hardware was over on Jackson (Street) they’d dump a half a ton of coal in the front yard. We’d put out a canvas and they’d dump the coal out and then we’d go out and try to put it…

In a coal chute?

No. Just a window. We’d just throw it in the coal bin, that’s how we’d heat the house. Daddy would make a big fire before we went to bed and then the coal would burn out over night. He’d get up in the morning and try to make another one before he went to work.

410 22nd Ave. Photo Madeline Crowley ©

There was no turning up the thermostat, turning the heat up. You had to make that fire. That’s unheard of in modern times in the United States, supposedly. At the time, we just thought that’s how everybody lived. So it was no big deal; that was just our existence.

By the time you were four, it was just your sisters and you in the house?

I think so. I think just about everybody else was out or if they were there I wasn’t paying attention because I was too young. I look at pictures and I see family in and out of the house at different events. Or somebody would come back into town and everybody would come over.

How much older are your two sisters? 

Let’s see. I’m not really good with numbers. They’re about three and six years older than I am.

They were enough older that there would have been four people tending to you. So, your experience would have been vastly different than your older siblings.

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Totally different. We even came in a different time; they were born mid- to late- 1930s, with the economic conditions (the Great Depression) back then. They were coming up in the tough times. They were coming up before Civil Rights Law, before Martin Luther King, before some of the Civil Rights Movements in this country.

Judge Jones, his wife and sister. Collection Richard Jones
That was some of the toughest times that black folks in this modern generation, of those that are still alive now, had to contend with.

Two of my sisters passed away and two brothers have passed away.

I’m sorry.

There are still four of us left, one sister is in Seattle, the other one lives now in Anchorage. I’ve got a brother who’s in California.

Wow, Anchorage. 

Yeah! Her husband had employment there and she was a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines so that was the motivation for moving to Anchorage. The summer months, beautiful! Winter months, different ballgame. 

 That’s interesting. Before your eldest siblings passed, were the circumstances of your life and theirs so different that you weren’t close?

No, we were close. There was an age difference. It’s family; you don’t know anything other than family. They might not be around all the time on a day-to-day basis but it was still clearly family. As I got older, to the age where we could hang out and do things together then the relationships blossomed. Particularly because my father was older, I depended on a lot more on my brothers for that father role. My Dad passed away before I was 21 years old. So, at a young age I was trying to figure out who I was, looking for that guidance and mentorship from my brothers. I could extract that from the relationship I had with my father from those early years but then the balance of it came from my relationships with your brothers and the rest of the family.

In a way you were lucky, today a lot of people wait a long time to have kids and then they have one kid.

Yeah, that’s… tough. The reality too is, when that kid goes to school and the other kids ask, is that your grandfather? For me, when I first came back from that first experience at the boarding school, hell, my Dad was telling me you’re going back to school. My Mom was saying you’re going back to school. There wasn’t any question in their minds that I was going back to school. It was the brothers, though, who came in and knew that I needed to be in that kind of environment. They wanted me to know that I had an opportunity to get a college education and get that mindset that I could do well in school and perform. That I’d have a better opportunity to get some different experiences in life, not that they weren’t doing reasonably well themselves but it was still a struggle.

How old, roughly, was your Dad when you were born?

He was… 50, 55, something like that.

Your Mom would have been about 40?

My Mom’s age is the 8th wonder of the world (laughs) nobody really knows how old my Mom was.

She was adamant about not letting anybody know how old she was. I’ve seen my brothers’ and sisters’ birth certificates and there was an eraser burn where her age was listed. She just didn’t want people to know how old she was. She was amazingly beautiful even deep into her life, smooth skin. She had all the old approaches to keeping smooth skin. I thought olive oil was lotion until I got into high school because she would put on her skin to make it so soft. At school it was one of those cultural shifts and I asked why people were cooking with olive oil. And they looked at me like I was absolutely insane.

There was always a bottle of olive oil in the bathroom because that was (what was used as) lotion (laughs) and so it was greasy but put a little bit on, just rub it in.

Judge Jones' Mother, Elvera Jones. Collection Richard Jones

She never looked ashy…

She never looked ashy. She had beautiful skin, like I said, her whole life.

(laughs) Was she secretive in other ways? It’s one thing to not talk about your age but it’s another to go to your children’s birth certificates…

She was… that was her thing. You see, my Mom didn’t grow up in this country.

Oh, she didn’t?

She was an immigrant. My father was born in Charleston. My mother was born in Bocas del Toro, Panama.  I actually had a chance to go down there in the past 8 years.

It was amazing. It was the same way as she had described that community. The same lifestyle exists. We stayed at a place down there on the beach. These boats would come in with the long sticks, and the women had clothing (piled) on their heads. These women were doing what is called ‘day work.’ They would get on these boats; that was the little community ferry system to go over to the port across the river. These long boats would go across the river and there was something serene, slow-paced and relaxing about that environment. The young kids who were all going to private school all had on uniforms. The simplicity of that lifestyle, everything was geared around water commerce. It’s not a big city at all. They have enormous poverty there. It was just the way she described how it was when she was a child. When I went back. it was almost the same thing today.

Did she have family here?

Her father was a seaman and he got his citizenship. Then she, with her brothers and sisters, got their citizenship. Many of them were still down in that area or in Panama. She had a couple of aunts and an uncle in the United States but we had little interaction with them when we were kids. They’d come into town. We’d see them for a little bit and that was it. She’d write them all the time, but we didn’t have anything other than the telephone or a postage stamp to stay in touch with folks back then.

Did you see your father’s extended family at all?

We were pretty much alone in Seattle. We had aunts and uncles in New Jersey. My Dad had a couple of other sisters but then people couldn’t afford to travel, traveling across the country, certainly not flying or the train.

410 22nd Ave. Photo Madeline Crowley ©

You had to take time off… which as a domestic

Exactly, it was a whole different time. We had exposure to them but we certainly didn’t know them well. I didn’t have an idea of what a grandmother means or how they bring about joy to your life because I just never had that experience.

From looking at your photos of your Dad he seemed determinedly positive. What about your Mom? I can’t read that photo.

Yes, he was very positive. Momma worked hard and had many kids to raise with all these challenges. She had her ways of showing everybody love… there wasn’t any question about how much love she had for me when I was a child. As I grew up she had enormous pride in all I was able to accomplish. Every step of the way, my Mom was there. When school held Father/Son banquets and my father was too old to go, she would show up. I was the odd duck at the Father/Son banquet. She was there for my graduations, when I passed the bar, for different jobs, and when I became a Judge. That was the highlight of her life to see her son be able to accomplish something like that. To know how far her family and my Dad’s family - how their tentacles and roots had stretched across this country - and to be able to see their son bear fruit - to have that kind of joy and experiences in life.

All those hours working for those five dollars, she lived long enough to see all that paid off.

She did. It paid off.

So let’s say, you did have long braids in the 70s? What would your Mom and Dad have said?

Well, put it this way, when naturals were first going, I came back from Saint Martin’s High School and I was growing my hair out. I went to the barber…

(Gestures with hands above head, like a dandelion) 

No, it wasn't that big. (laughs). I asked for it to be shaped - don't cut it off because that's how you got it large. I remember coming home and that didn't go over well. (laughs) Mom said, "You're going to go back there and get your hair cut." Now, the flip side of that was I had a barber that was my parent's age. So, I'd grow my natural again. 

Judge Jones before the US Senate. Collection: Richard A. Jones

What was the barber’s name, do you remember?

Oh, Mr. Pierre. So, I walked in and told Mr. Pierre… Mr. Pierre, he was a like an uncle, just shape it for me. He kind of looked at me like aright. Next thing I knew, he just started and took the clippers and whooomp, (indicates a close cut).

I was hot (angry). I had just paid my dollar and a quarter for my haircut. I said, “What did you do?” He answered, “You don’t need all that on your head.” He had that old school mentality that (natural hair) was too radical and too different. You weren’t coming out of his barber shop looking like that, well, he changed over years as he wanted to stay in business. It was, again, that shift in culture in terms of what was acceptable and what wasn’t acceptable.

After I wasn’t living at home and I came back wearing braids and Mom looked at me like, oh, no. She wasn’t having that (laughs). It was that cultural shift, what happened to my clean-cut son? She hadn’t wrapped her mind around the whole concept of our generation, that cultural shift but as time went on it was no big deal.

Your mom, she was very particular about her age and her skin care, was she very particular about her clothes, did she make her own clothes?

No, top to bottom my Mom was as sharp as sharp could be. Put it this way, by the time all the kids had gone, all the women at I. Magnin and all the women at Nordstroms knew my Mom. She had dresses that said, “Nordstrom’s Best,’ that were still hanging in her closet that had never been worn. She loved to dress, even she was in her 80s she was still wearing high heels.

Do you remember what she wore when you first became a Judge?

Yes, I have a picture right here. (points to a picture)

Was there any thing more you wanted to say about being in law school?

Law school taught me so much. I'd say the only other experience to mention is that we came in just after Defunis. Defunis was a Supreme Court case that said white students were not admitted because of Affirmative Action efforts on campuses. Whent I first came to university...

Judge Jones wearing the purple of the UW. Collection Richard Jones

What year was that?

It was 1972 to 1975 when we came into school. I remember my first day at Law School. Again, I’m not condemning the University of Washington. Anyone who knows me knows I bleed purple. I’m a die-hard UW Dawg Husky all the way. I’m proud of the fact that I have an education from the University of Washington and the contacts, and my commitments to the U of WA. Still, I think it was a different experience because when we came in we were affirmative action babies. I think a lot of UW professors didn’t know what to expect. Would that mean there was there was going to be some diminishment of the quality and caliber of work that we could provide? They wondered about our performance, if we could succeed in law school.

Did you get the feeling that they wanted you to succeed?

Ah, it depended on the Professor. I know the first time I walked into class, I won’t say which class but I clearly remember it was that old Paper Chase style of classroom, the tall chairs, the heavy wood. I walked into the classroom and had a leather coat, an apple hat on and a T-shirt…

An apple hat? That’s the one with the brim?

It had a little lid. That’s what we called them back then. So I walked all the way to the front. I wasn’t going to sit in the back of the classroom. I was going to sit right in front near the Professor. I walked all the way down. The Professor came all the way down the stairs. I was just getting settled, so I took my hat off. I had my hair in braids. I remember he put his books up and he turned and stared at me, like an alien just walked into his classroom. He just stared and our eyes connected. He looked at me and I looked at him. He just put his head down and then it made me feel a little bit uncomfortable. I said (to myself) if there’s any discomfort, that’s on him, it’s got nothing to do with me. It was because of what was going on at that time, naturals and braids.

How long were your braids? (laughs)

Oh, they were more like cornrows as opposed to braids.

Oh, (laughs) I was thinking… (gestures to shoulder)

Oh, no; nothing like that.

I had another experience a few weeks or a month into Law School. I had two jobs when I was in Law School. I went to the Dean and said I know I can’t work the first year of Law School. I need authorization to work so I can pay my rent or I need the Law School to write me a check so I can.

He said, ‘We don’t pay your rent in law school.’ I told him I had to get authorization to be able to work or I need you to give me a check. He told me that he couldn’t give me authorization to work. Then, he started giving me all these lectures about the structure, and the challenge - you can’t succeed if you work, you’ll fail in law school. We finished the conversation. I didn’t have a check. I didn’t have permission but I kept on working because at that point I didn’t have any options at that point to survive.

Red Square. University of Washington. Photo UW Staff 

During my first year of law school I was, working at the CARITAS, then the second and third year I had a job at the US Attorney’s Office, law clerking. Because I was trying to make money on both ends (of the day) I would do accounting work for Mr. Santos, Bob Santos. He let me do the bookkeeping for CARITAS because his brother had retired and he was getting too old to do it. He said you could come do the bookkeeping in the morning and do the tutoring at night. So my law school experience was I’d go to CARITAS in the morning then I’d rush over to law school and when my classes finished school I’d go back to CARITAS and work until we closed at about 8 o’clock at night.

That was the first year, the second and third years, I’d go to CARITAS in the morning, then go to school and then I’d go work at the US attorney’s office until about 5 or 6 and go back closing up CARITAS ‘til 8pm. It was a non-stop cycle when I was in school. My grades suffered but I still did ok.

I remember I had a challenge in one course in Civil Procedure. I went in to talk to the Professor. There was a kid ahead of me who sat in front of me. I’d seen this kid’s grades so I knew I had better grades than him. I overhead their conversation, Oh, you have a strong tradition of lawyers in your family. This is just a speed bump; don’t worry about this, just go study. You’ll do well. Well, that took enormous pressure off me, because I knew I did better than he did. I should get the same type of advice so I’ll be out of here in five minutes. I walk in and he pulled my test out. He says, with no other conversation, ‘Let me explain something to you. There are those people who have a desire to become a surgeon and they don’t have a steady hand, and there are those people who desire to become a professional musician but they don’t have a musical ear, and there are those people who desire to become lawyers, do you get my drift?’ That was the extent of my coaching so I felt like I got kicked in the stomach. All the effort to get into law school and everything else, nothing counted.

I’ll tell you I had the biggest pity party on the planet. I walked over to Red Square. It was pouring down rain and I was ready to just cash it in right then.  I thought, if this is what law school is all about, if this is how they think we’re supposed to succeed here. I thought, they can have it. I will work at Boeing or at the post office. I will do something else. I’m not going to put up with this. I walked around in the rain for about 10 or 15 minutes and getting soaking wet. Then something just clicked on. I thought, I’m not going to let one person define who I am or my destiny. I walked back over to school. I got a withdrawal slip. I walked back to his office and (knocks on table) said, would you sign this? He said, “What’s this? I said, it’s a withdrawal slip, and he said something. I said no, the only communication we need to have is for you to sign this. We don’t need to have more communication, period, for the duration of my existence in this law school. He signed it. I walked away.

Judge Jones Congressional Certificate. Collection Judge Jones.

Then, because I had taken most of the course material, the following quarter I had to ask another professor. I explained to the Professor that I had to withdraw. I didn’t go into all the detail but I told him I wanted to challenge the course. He was very helpful in terms of coaching and mentoring and all the things you’d expect from a Professor. He was absolutely wonderful, the consummate idea of what a professor is supposed to be.

He authorized me to overbook at 21 hours that quarter which was unheard of in law school especially if you had two jobs and he let me challenge the course. This meant I had to come in and take the final exam and turn in a couple of other assignments. I passed (hits the table) without any problem. I did well in his class. It was another one of those occasions where you have to figure out and dig deep when you run into challenges or confrontation to figure out another way to get around this - don’t be afraid of it and don’t run from it. That’s the way you have to plan your life and live your life.

I just realized the one thing we haven’t touched on is becoming a judge. Do you want to talk about that?

If they are cases pending I can’t talk about that.

No, no. What I hope with this whole project these interviews in 50 years are touchstones for other people. Not specific cases, this isn’t Law Review.

(laughs) Ok.

The first judgeship was an elected one so you had to the whole campaigning?

And the way it came about, I wouldn’t recommend it for anybody.

I was working at the US Attorney’s office at the time. I had practiced law for 19 years. I wanted to do something different while staying connected to the courtroom so the only next logical step was to become a judge. I went through all the evaluations you have to do. The week I finished the last evaluation, Judge Sullivan, Department 7, King County Superior Court passed away. That following week on a Tuesday was his funeral.

Now, there was a community grandmother named Freddie May Goucher, don’t know if you’ve had a chance to meet her. She was like family to us. She called up and said, “I know you’re trying to be a Judge. Did you put your application in to become a Superior Court Judge? I said, Well, Freddie, I said, Today is Judge Sullivan’s funeral. She said, “What’s that got to do with you putting your resume in? I said, “Just out of respect for the man, today’s his funeral.” Freddie’s words were, “Look, fool, if you don’t send in your application a thousand other people are going to send in their application today. Get your resumé down to Olympia.”

Presidential Appointment. Federal Judge Jones. District Court WA State. Collection Richard Jones

That was Tuesday so I faxed my resume on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I got a call from the Governor’s office. On Thursday, I was interviewed by the Governor’s office. On Friday at 11 o’clock, I was appointed a King County Superior Court Judge. Sunday night was my effective last day as an Assistant Federal Prosecutor though I still had two weeks of commitment to wrap cases to try and wind them down. The following Monday, I was sworn in as a King County Superior Judge and I had to put a campaign together. That meant at lightning speed, everything was happening during the campaign. I was working, closing down my cases and my files, and walking down the road, and all the sudden; you’re a superior court judge now. It was overnight.

How’d that feel, the first time you put on that robe?

The first time I put that robe on, I was walking down the long hall to get to court from my chambers - it happened so fast. I stopped midway down and I thought, what the hell are you doing? This is absolutely insane.

Seattle Times article on Judge Jones and the Ridgeway trial. Collection Judge Jones

At least you didn’t have to wear the funny white wig like the Brits.

No, no. (laughs) I remember just before you walk into the court, there’s a little anteroom where I took a deep, deep breath. I thought, ‘this is going to change the rest of your life.” So, I walked in that door and they said, “All Rise, the Honorable Richard Jones. Court is now in session.” Then, it was the transition to try and stop being an advocate and instead be a Judge, to learn the process of becoming a Judge because it’s not something you just get (instantly).

Did you feel welcomed in the fraternity of Judges?

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Many of those were people I had known before or had appeared before. Many were former colleagues. For example, several of the Federal judges here, Judges Pechman, Lasnick and Ricardo Martinez, all current Federal Judges; we all started off as King County Prosecutors. They were already on the bench, they are also all now Federal Judges so you had a built-in set of colleagues walking in the door and everybody was really collegial in terms of wanting you to succeed.

Because you were a known and proven quantity?

Judge Jones with his mother, Elvera Jones. Collection Richard Jones. Collection Richard Jones
So they were just happy to welcome you?

Exactly; exactly.

Then you never felt as a judge excluded or treated differently?

No, no. You had lawyers test you. I don’t think that was race specific, a few times it would be but with lawyers, it doesn’t make any difference. Once they saw what your style was and how you performed as a judge then they learned lessons pretty quick about what you would tolerate and what it wouldn’t tolerate.

I have always run a formal courtroom. I was raised in an environment where we had experienced, skilled litigators. The judges I had respect for were the judges who ran tight ships in the courtroom. People knew what the rules were, people knew what they could expect, how it was going to operate. There were no surprises in terms of being as fair and balanced as possible, as that’s what your job is.

Then, the Federal experience is totally different. Someone once described the process of being a Federal Judge as like a live autopsy because once you start the process and you put your name in the arena, other people are controlling your life. They’re poking around in your life; they’re exploring every avenue of your life. They had six or seven FBI agents (not just for me, that’s for everybody) and they’re running around talking to people to complete your background investigation. That’s because these jobs are so few and the information we receive is so vast, so enormous and so sensitive so they can’t afford to have somebody they don’t have utmost confidence in. So when I say it’s a live autopsy, they explore everything: everything you’ve ever done; where you’ve lived; where you’ve traveled; every speech you’ve given; every paper you’ve written; every opinion you’ve written; every and decision you’ve made - everything’s open to inspection. 

People told me about the security issues, there’s no privacy when I became a Federal Judge. If you worry about worry, you can’t function. What you can do is focus on what you can control right now, on what’s in your hands, the work. You control the work, let that take of itself. Once it develops and so the least amount of my energy would be dedicated over here (gestures to the left). All of my energy would be dedicated towards the work – we work on big cases. When the Ridgeway case happened, for example, I couldn’t worry about what was going to be on TV or what was going to be on the newspapers or broadcast across the planet. I told myself, you focus on what’s in front of you. You have absolutely no control over the rest of it - control what’s in your hands. You can only control what’s in front of you and let that take its own course.

Seattle Times Article on Judge Jones and the Ridgeway trial.  Collection  Richard Jones
Well, that’s a tremendous achievement.

It’s a process but once you get on the other side: the opportunities, the types of cases and the caliber of people you get a chance to work with – it’s the best job on the planet - the best job on the planet.

I love it when people say that because not many people have that luxury.

I know. It’s a lifetime appointment so you better be happy doing what you’re doing.

Well, hats off to you for doing this project because there is so much history in the Central District. It’s my home, that’s my family, that’s my roots.

Thank you. I think you’re the most powerful person I’ve ever met and for you to take this time, I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

Well, when you first called, when I first thought about it, I was like, oh, no... (laughs) When I saw what you were trying to do, again, it was reaching back because if kids are motivated enough to take the time to learn if they’re willing to read - there’s so much history they can learn. The benefit it may not be the young kids but it may be those in the 20s or 30s, in that bubble of what are they going to do in life? They need that motivation to push them over, and you never know what generation or what age group that you’re going to capture and finds your website and picks up some history.

Thank you!

(Honorable Federal Judge Jones was referred to this project by Mona Lake Jones, Dorothy Cordova, Carver Gayton & Anonymous)

Transcription by: Mikayla Medbery, Bea Tan & Madeline Crowley

A special thanks to Mikayla and Bea, both impressively accurate transcribers.

 ©  Madeline Crowley People of the Central Area 2015   All material is covered by copyright. Express written permission must be given for any copyrighted material on this page. Email to request permission to copy or paste materials. 

This project was supported in part by 
4Culture's Heritage Projects program

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About Me

Seattle, WA, United States
I am not a professional photographer nor a trained journalist. At community meetings, it became clear that many of us don’t know each other. We haven’t heard each other’s stories and don't know each other’s circumstances. This is my attempt to give a few people the chance to tell their story, to talk about our community, to say their piece in peace. As such, comments have been disabled. The views and opinions expressed here are those of each narrator and do not necessarily reflect the position of views of the CentralAreaComm.blogspot blog site itself. The is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied by narrators of this project. All interviews have been edited and in places condensed.

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