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News Posted on January 24, 2013

Clarence B. Jones, Attorney and Speechwriter for Martin Luther King, to Speak at UC Davis

Author, attorney, and civil rights leader Dr. Clarence B. Jones, who served as counsel and speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped compose the historic "I Have a Dream" speech, will speak at UC Davis on February 4 as part of a celebration of Dr. King's legacy and the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington.

The event, "Remembering Our Roots: Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at King Hall," will begin at noon on February 4 at the UC Davis Conference Center and feature Jones' keynote speech as well as remarks from Dean Kevin R. Johnson and Professor of Law Emeritus and former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso. The event is free and open to the public.

During the 1960s, Jones impacted the course of American history through his work with King and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). He coordinated the successful legal defense of King and the SCLC leadership in libel suits filed by Birmingham, Alabama city officials that led to the U.S. Supreme Court case (Sullivan v. The New York Times) that set legal standards for libel.  In addition, Jones drafted the settlement agreement between King and the City of Birmingham that ended demonstrations and desegregated the city's department stores and public accommodations.  He also assisted in drafting the famous "I Have a Dream" speech delivered as part of the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. In September 1971, responding to a request from New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, he helped to negotiate an end to the Attica prison riots.

The author of What Would Martin Say? and Behind the Dream: The Making of a Speech that Transformed the Nation, Jones has received numerous honors for his contributions to American culture, including four honorary doctorates and a Letter of Commendation from President Bill Clinton.  He holds a bachelor's degree from Columbia University and a Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law. He is currently a Scholar Writer in Residence and Visiting Professor at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute at Stanford University and the College of Arts& Sciences, University of San Francisco.

"Remembering Our Roots: Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at King Hall" has been organized by law student Fabiola Larios '13 and supported by students and faculty of UC Davis School of Law, which is housed in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall.  Following his assassination in 1968, law students and faculty urged campus leaders to name the building after King to honor his legacy and dedicate the law school to ideals of public service and social justice.  Larios, who chose to attend the School of Law in part because of its connection to King, began to work last year with faculty and student groups to build support for an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech.  At the suggestion of Dean Johnson, she contacted Jones, writing a heartfelt letter that convinced the much-in-demand lecturer to attend and deliver the keynote address.

"I wanted to create an event that would remind us of our roots, bring history to life, and strengthen our commitment at UC Davis School of Law to the legacy of Dr. King and all those who contributed to the civil rights movement," said Larios. "I hope that remembering their struggles will help to inspire a new generation of students and activists to continue to push to make Dr. King's dream a reality."

"Remembering Our Roots: Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at King Hall"