Dr. Clarence B. Jones served as legal counsel, strategic advisor, and draft speechwriter to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1960 until Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. Vanity Fair called him the man who kept King’s secrets; Dr. Jones was privy to Reverend King’s decision-making processes and political struggles.
During that time, Dr. King depended on Dr. Jones for legal and strategic counsel and assistance in drafting landmark speeches and public testimony. He is credited with writing the first seven paragraphs of the iconic I Have A Dream speech. With the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington approaching, Dr. Jones shows no signs of slowing down.
He has authored two acclaimed books What Would Martin Say? and Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation, and countless articles and essays for the Huffington Post and many other publications. His latest book, Last of the Lions, was released this year. (Red Hawk Publications/UNC Press).
Across the decades following Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, Clarence B. Jones worked to carry on Dr. King’s legacy, to continue the nonviolent struggle for social justice, voting rights, and democratic inclusion. Dr. Jones has engaged American society in various fields, capacities, and roles throughout these years.
As a lawyer, civil rights leader, and business executive in the entertainment field, Dr. Jones maintained close personal friendships -- and collaborative working relationships as -- with influential 20th- century artists, writers, athletes, and social justice activists, including Muhammed Ali, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee, and Lorraine Hansberry. In 1974, Dr. Jones negotiated the historic “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire. Dr. Jones has served on the boards of cultural organizations, including The Impact Repertory Theater & Dance Company, The Theatre Development Fund NYC, and the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.
Dr. Jones was engaged in close working relationships and friendships with many leaders of the black liberation movement who interacted with King throughout these years. He was a liaison between Dr. King and Malcolm X, James Baldwin, and Robert F. Kennedy, among other figures. Because of his relationship with Dr. King and his associates, Dr. Jones, he was the target of illegal wiretaps initiated by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover from July 1963 until Dr. King’s assassination.
Jones currently serves as the Chairman of the Spill the Honey Foundation, an organization dedicated to Black- Jewish relations. He also founded the Dr. Clarence B. Jones Institute for Social Advocacy and also serves as the Founding Director Emeritus of the Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco.
Dr. Jones was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of San Francisco and honored at events at Columbia University, where he was an undergraduate, and the Julliard School of Performing Arts, where he studied music. He graduated from the Boston University Law School.