Johnnie Jones Sr., a pioneering civil rights lawyer and decorated World War II veteran, has reportedly died. He was 102.
On Monday (April 25), the Louisiana Department of Veteran Affairs (LDVA) posted on their website the announcement that Jones Sr. had passed away.
"We are saddened by the news of the passing," the department stated. "It was our distinct honor to care for Mr. Jones at our Louisiana Veterans Home where he lived since this past December."
They continued: "We will always be grateful to have played a part in awarding him the Purple Heart he deserved for his injury in combat.”
Jones was awarded the Purple Heart by state officials at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, according to CNN.
"I want to express our deepest respect for your distinguished service, and long overdue recognition of your wounds received during the invasion of Omaha Beach on D-Day," wrote Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville in a letter to Jones for the award at the time. "We owe you a debt of gratitude, both for your sacrifices during World War II and for being a role model for African Americans aspiring to serve.”
A graduate of Southern University, Jones was drafted into the Army in 1942. A year later, he rose to the rank of warrant officer junior grade.
Upon his return to the United States after the war, Jones faced racism. While driving in 1946 to New Orleans to get shrapnel removed from his neck, he was pulled over by a white police officer, according to the VA’s post.
"He knocked me down and started kicking me," Jones said to the VA in an interview, according to CNN. "Things weren't right. 'Separate but equal' was unconstitutional and I wanted to fight it and make it better," he said.
In 1953, Jones got his law degree and was recruited by the Rev. T.J. Jemison “to help organize the United Defense League's eight-day bus boycott in Baton Rouge and defend the protesters.”
According to the VA, Jones’ two sons, a daughter and granddaughter were inspired by his legal prowess and became attorneys themselves.