Last year, Historic Denver made the home of former Judge Raymond Jones into a landmark. While Jones didn’t build that house himself, he laid another brick by brick — a house that had a perpetually open door to the state judiciary and broader legal system.
Jones made history in 1988 when he became the state’s first Black appellate judge. “I take pride in dad and his experiences and the doors that he kicked open for others, whether it be living in a community that’s traditionally white, or the trailblazing he did in the legal community in Colorado,” Raymond Jones II said earlier this month to CPR News.
Jones started his legal career after he earned his law degree in 1971 from Harvard University. He returned to Colorado and bought the house on Steele Street in Denver. According to CPR and Historic Denver, then-police chief Art Dill “routinely visited the Jones home, often parking across the street or driving his cruiser onto the yard — while telling the Jones’s that they didn’t belong in the neighborhood. Officers allegedly broke into and ransacked the home, stealing property.”
He turned to then-Chief Justice Edward Pringle, who Jones was clerking for at the Colorado Supreme Court. Pringle made one call to the chief of police to tell him, “You get that car the hell off of his yard,” and Jones said the next day he was gone.
Jones wasn’t deterred by Dill, the segregated housing in Denver or the hard work he’d have to do to lay the foundation he wanted to in the state’s legal system. He spent 32 years as a judge, writing more than 1,400 opinions with just three of them being overturned.
“When I moved to the bench in Colorado, I knew I was going to use the law to turn people’s attitudes around, to help them understand that there is something unique and similar in each of us,” Jones told CPR News. “And that you can’t beat that out of them.”
Jones was inducted in the Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame by the Denver Public Library in 1990, and he was joined earlier this month by Judge Gary Jackson who was inducted in the hall of fame on Feb. 5. Among his impressive legal career accomplishments, he’s also a former visiting professor of political science at Colorado College, assistant professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and an active award-winning community volunteer, according to Historic Denver.