Jones is considered a prudent choice to be attorney general as he is a politically conservative Democrat who would likely be confirmed even if the Senate remains in Republican hands.
President-elect Joe Biden has named a number of nominees for cabinet positions over the last few weeks. One of those Biden is thought likely to add to the list is outgoing Alabama Senator Doug Jones, a former state attorney general who is reportedly on the short list to be the next United States attorney general.
Jones, who lost his reelection bid for the Senate this November, is considered a prudent choice to be attorney general as he is a politically conservative Democrat who would likely be confirmed even if the Senate remains in Republican hands.
Jones also has a celebrated career as a civil rights attorney whose most famous success was the prosecution of a member of the Ku Klux Klan for the 1963 bombing of a Black church in Birmingham.
The early years of Doug Jones
Gordan Douglas Jones was born in Fairfield, Alabama in 1954 to Gordon and Gloria Jones. Jones’s father was a worker with US Steel, while his mother was a homemaker. At the time, Fairfield was a highly segregated suburb of Birmingham, a city with one of the largest Black populations by percentage in the country.
Jones attended the University of Alabama, graduating in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science in political science. He then attended the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, where he completed a law degree in 1979.
Jones’s career briefly took him out of his home state when he was employed as the staff counsel to the US Senate Judiciary Committee for then-Alabama Senator Howell Heflin, a Democrat.
That brief time in Heflin’s office in Washington, DC was followed by more government work. In 1980, Jones returned to Alabama to serve as an assistant US attorney, a position he held until 1984. At that point, he left government service to work in private law practice in Birmingham.
During that time in private practice, Jones married Louise New, also a lifelong Alabamian. They have three children together: Courtney, Carson and Christopher.
In 1997, Jones was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton as the US attorney for Alabama. He would be replaced in the position when President George W. Bush succeeded Clinton in 2001, but before Jones left, he tried the defining case of his career.
The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church
On September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Four young Black girls were killed.
Birmingham was the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement. It was in that city that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for demonstrating against segregation and wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” one of his most famous and revered pieces of writing. Bombings of Black homes and churches were so common at that time that the city was nicknamed “Bombingham.”
At the time of the church bombing, Jones was nine. In law school 15 years later, he would attend the trial of Robert Chambliss, one of the KKK members who was found responsible for the attack. Jones was said to be impressed by the prosecution of Alabama’s then-Attorney General Bill Baxley.
More than two decades later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sought to bring another man to justice for the bombing, Thomas E. Blanton Jr.
Jones, then the state’s attorney general, was both excited and nervous to have an opportunity to follow in Baxley’s footsteps. Jones prevailed and Blanton received four life sentences for his role in the bombing.
Jones’ successful prosecution of the case raised his profile, with some wondering if he would pursue political office once he was no longer Alabama’s attorney general. Instead, Jones decided to return to private practice. In 2007, Jones was the recipient of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s 15th Anniversary Civil Rights Distinguished Service Award.
While the attorney general of Alabama, Jones also indicted Eric Robert Rudolph, the man responsible for the 1996 Olympic bombing at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia. Rudolph, a far-right religious extremist, was also responsible for bombings at abortion clinics and a lesbian bar. His bombings resulted in two deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Rudolph managed to escape capture while Jones was in office, but he was captured in 2003 and received multiple life sentences for his crimes.
In 2013, Jones and Greg Hawley, a fellow lawyer who also worked under Heflin, formed their own law firm, Jones & Hawley, P.C. The firm, which is still in operation, focuses on white collar criminal defense, environmental litigation and civil defense litigation.
Alabama Senator Doug Jones
After his former boss, Senator Heflin, left office in 1996, a Democrat did not represent Alabama in the Senate again until 2018. That was the year Jones took office.
In 2017, when President Donald Trump took office, he appointed then-Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be the US attorney general. Following his confirmation, Sessions’s Senate seat, which he won in 1996 after Heflin’s retirement, was left open. Alabama held a special election on December 12, 2017 to fill the seat.
Jones announced he was running for the seat in May 2017. Jones beat six other Democrats in the primary to face Republican Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
During the election, Moore faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, including from one woman who said he initiated a sexual encounter when she was 14 and he was 32. Moore was purportedly banned from the Gadsden Mall in Gadsden, Alabama because of his repeated attempts to pick up teenage girls.
Despite these accusations, Jones beat Moore by less than 1.7%. In Alabama, a staunchly conservative state, the accusations against Moore were largely dismissed by Republican voters. Moore also had the support of Trump. For these reasons, Jones’ victory was considered an upset.
While in the Senate, Jones’s voting record was one of the most conservative of the Democratic Party. Jones sponsored five bills that were enacted, including the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018, which requires the National Archives and Records Administration to create and organize a collection of records related to civil rights cold cases.
Senate races are normally every six years, but since Jones won in a special election, he had to run for his seat again in the 2020 election. He was roundly defeated, 60.1% to 39.7%, by Tommy Tuberville, a former football coach for Auburn University. Tuberville also beat Sessions in the Republican primary.
Jones will finish out his term on January 3, 2021.
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