U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Jones has been giving back to the community since his early days of law school, now adding his guidance to the One Roof Foundation — By Bob Condor
In the late 1960s, the Honorable Richard A. Jones didn’t name a specific career or job when asked to state his life ambition for the high school yearbook. His line was concise and clear and explains a lot about Jones’ accomplished life as a lawyer and judge.
“I simply wrote, ‘To prove myself,’ “says Jones during a recent phone interview.
The opportunities to do just that were abundant for Jones, who grew up in the Central District “when it was all Black and Asian.” He is the youngest of eight children-little sisters and brothers everywhere know all about making proof cases with siblings.
The federal judge’s father, a carpenter and semi-pro baseball player, and mother, a maid, emphasized receiving good grades and pursuing a career. Jones’ calling to the law ignited when say he felt some of his college professors were overlooking his talent and work ethic.
“I wasn’t seen as someone who would become a lawyer,” says Jones. “I was the first person in my family who graduated from college.”
Jones earned a Bachelor of Public Affairs degree from Seattle University in 1972 and went on to become a 1975 University of Washington Law School graduate. He worked his way through post-secondary schooling as an accountant and law clerk.
His commitment to giving back to the community started as early as Jones’ first year of law school. His early legal career roles included serving as an attorney for the Port of Seattle, deputy prosecuting attorney for King County, assistant U.S. Attorney for the region, plus some years in private practice as a trial and corporate lawyer.
Along the way, Jones co-founded two Seattle area law student programs: the Northwest Minority Job Fair and First-Year Minority Clerkship Program to encourage other aspiring young people of color to follow in his chosen career path.
In the mid-1990s, Jones was elected to the King County Superior Court, then was appointed to the United States District Court, Western District of Washington, in 2007. He hears criminal cases that are in the jurisdiction of the Federal government.
“I was a litigator most of my years as a lawyer,” says Jones. “I wanted to stay connected the court setting. I enjoy knowing that I am making a difference in people’s lives. There are very few days when the work is not impacting people and the community.”
One Roof Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena, is thrilled Jones accepted an invitation to join its board as its Chair. He is currently on the National Board of the YMCA of USA and has served locally on the YMCA of Greater Seattle for more than 20 years. He has served on more than 25 boards over five decades, all to level up both community and the law profession.
Judge Jones is a universally respected jurist, beloved community leader and civic icon,” says Mari Horita, executive director of One Roof. “As a lifelong advocate and champion for equity, compassion and unity, we could think of no better individual to lead One Roof Foundation’s Board.”
“I am so happy to be part of One Roof Foundation,” says Jones. “The primary reason is it helps me stay connected with our community and connect in a positive way. It gives me perspective on what is going on around us, something I can bring to the courtroom.”
Jones says he is particularly drawn to One Roof’s commitment to ending youth homelessness in the greater Seattle area: “How we deal with youth homelessness transcends so many components of how we can lift up the marginalized among us.”
His Honor said his work to date with the foundations “helps me to further understand that many of the young people entering my courtroom and the judicial system are kids who are abandoned, abused, neglected, homeless or lack parental control.”
“The work One Roof is doing with Youth Care [a local nonprofit dedicated to addressing youth homelessness] makes me feel I’ve got to keep some of these young people from entering the judicial system,” says Jones. “Because once they are in the system, it gets more and more to change the mindset.”
Jones also embraces the One Roof pillar of making hockey and skating more accessible to youth, especially among the BIPOC population.
“I think back about hockey as a young child growing up in the Central District, I never thought about the sport,” says Jones. “I am in total support of the Kraken and foundation looking to create opportunities for BIPOC kids to try the sport no matter whether they can cover the financial costs.
“These youth can have fun, fall in love with skating and hockey. They will learn about team and teamwork, feel at home on the ice. It can be an outlet those youth otherwise might never have pursued.”
And, yes, it can be another way for those up and comers to prove themselves.