Alberta Odell Jones became a very powerful figure when she emerged as the first female African-American prosecutor in Louisville, Kentucky.
Jones was a civil rights advocate, who was very active in her community and also a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She held training classes to teach Black people how to register to vote.
Reportedly, her efforts caused a major political shakeup in 1961 as black voters helped oust the mayor and many of the city’s aldermen. Subsequently, the new city administration enacted the first public accommodations ordinance in the South.
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As an advocate for increased African American political participation, Jones created the Independent Voter’s Association which registered 6,000 African Americans.
Born in November 1930 to Sarah (Sadie) Frances Crawford and Odell Jones, in Louisville, Kentucky, Jones attended Louisville Central High School and the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes, which would later merge with the University of Louisville in 1951.
Jones was the first African American to attend the University of Louisville Law School in 1956. However, she transferred to Howard University School of Law where she earned a law degree from Howard University School of Law in 1958.
In 1959, she became one of the first African American women to pass the Kentucky Bar.
Jones opened a law office in downtown Louisville and was hired by boxing legend Muhammad Ali to represent him and negotiate his first professional boxing deal.
Jones participated in the 1963 civil rights marches in Louisville and the march on Washington on August 28 of that year.
In 1964, Jones was appointed city attorney in Louisville, becoming the first woman ever to hold that position. In February of the following year, Jones was also appointed prosecutor for the Domestic Relations Court, a first for a woman or a person of color.
As the first female African-American prosecutor in Louisville and an ardent advocate for civil rights, Jones was responsible for prosecuting mostly white men for spousal abuse.
She was a member of the Fall City Bar Association, the Louisville Bar Association, and the American Bar Association and also a member of Eta Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.
On August 5, 1965, her body was found in the Ohio River off Louisville’s Sherman Minton Bridge. She was 34 years at the time of her death. Autopsy report revealed that Jones had several blows to the head before being tossed unconscious into the water, where she drowned.
Her rented car was found several blocks from the bridge with traces of blood in it, and her purse was found hanging from the bridge three years later, according to Black Past.
The case remains unsolved till date.
Over the years, according to Jones’ family they’ve been told that there isn’t enough evidence to arrest anyone, original investigators are no longer living, or the evidence no longer exists.
Three years ago, Jones’ case was reopened, funded by the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, but nothing positive came out of it.