House Passes Hill Bill Honoring Arkansas Civil Rights Hero, Scipio Jones
WASHINGTON D.C. — Congressman French Hill (AR-02) released the following statement after passage of his bill to honor Arkansas civil rights champion and lawyer, Scipio Jones. Rep. Hill’s bill, H.R. 3317, the Scipio Jones Post Office Portrait Act, allows a portrait of civil rights champion Scipio Jones to be displayed in the Little Rock post office bearing his name.
"Arkansans are deeply proud of Scipio Jones and his courageous fight for justice and equality, and today’s action by the House ensures that generations of Arkansans and visitors alike will have a visual reminder of his important role in Arkansas’s history," said Congressman Hill. "I thank the House Oversight Committee for quickly bringing this legislation to the House floor for a vote as well as Senator Boozman and Senator Cotton for partnering with me to introduce companion legislation in the Senate. Sometimes it takes an act of Congress, and I am grateful to have so many partners and supporters in the Capitol.”
About Scipio Jones
Scipio Africanus Jones, who was born to a slave in 1863, attended Walden Seminary (now Philander Smith College) and then attended Bethel Institute (now Shorter College), earning his bachelor’s degree in 1885. In 1889, Jones passed the bar and was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Arkansas in 1900 and by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1905.
After the Elaine Massacre in 1919, he defended 12 black men who had been charged with murder and condemned by all-white juries.
Despite its being described as a "race riot," most of the victims were black and most of the aggressors were white. With his clients already facing execution, Jones fought their convictions, in both state and federal courts. An appeal was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the accused had been denied due process of law. After reviewing the case, Moore v. Dempsey, the Supreme Court agreed.
In 2007, the House passed legislation to name the post office located at 1700 Main Street in Little Rock, Arkansas after Jones.
Today, a plaque at the post office bears his name, but post office regulations restrict the items that can be placed on display.
On June 18, 2019 Rep. Hill introduced legislation to allow a full-sized portrait of Scipio Jones to be on display at the post office in Little Rock which bears his name. Funds for the portrait will be raised privately and no taxpayer money will be spent on the artwork. The legislation passed the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on December 19, 2019 and was referred to the full house for consideration on February 5, 2020.