The judge and JFK

If not for John F. Kennedy’s death, a lot of great things might never have happened.

It’s profound to hear such a thought, knowing the reverence shown to America’s 35th president.

But when Judge Nathaniel Jones begins to recite the things that happened in the years after JFK’s death, he’s not dismissive or callous of Kennedy.

He can’t be, in fact. Judge Jones is a Youngstown legend who has had a prolific legal career that has taken him around the world. And he owes it all to the man whose assassination hits a significant milestone Friday.

In processing all that has been for him and for America the past 50 years, Judge Jones reaches to a more divine perspective.

“There are words in Scripture that say for everything, there’s a season. I think of this tragedy, and I think about all that happened in the years afterward. Maybe it was not accidental; maybe it was pre-ordained.”

Kennedy did so much in so little time, he said. And what Kennedy started, combined with his death, opened so many doors afterward, he believes.

Judge Jones’ appointment by Kennedy as one of America’s first black assistant U.S. attorneys is a great tale, and it’s one of the many features The Vindicator will offer this week as we mark Kennedy’s death.

Veteran reporter Pete Milliken heads up our work this week. His first story on today’s front page grabs onto the charisma of JFK.

His work continues on Friday to include:

Memories flow freely from various Valley residents as they easily recall where they were when they heard.

Was it 20,000 people or 60,000 people? Regardless, Valley people remember seeing Kennedy’s campaign stop here in Youngstown.

Jack Ruby’s killing of Lee Harvey Oswald infuriated many. But he got at least one thank-you letter — from a guy in Youngstown.

In addition to Pete’s special work, we have several signature efforts that you’ll want to watch for.

Former Vindy Managing Editor Paul Jagnow was at a hearing in Trumbull County that Friday. It would become a short hearing when a county official reported the news of Kennedy being shot. Paul shares the rest of that working day.

We will have a special Twitter feature that will start Thursday and continue through Friday — re-creating, in a way, the moment-by-moment events.

Our website,, will host several features that will be highlighted by a special two-hour Vindy Talk Radio Kennedy show Thursday.

On Friday, all of our work gets wrapped in a special Vindy print edition that you will want to buy.

The front page of that day’s paper will be the front page we printed 50 years ago.

It is a fascinating reproduction similar to what we did with the Titanic anniversary in 2012.

It is a poignant week for America, and we’re proud of the work we’ve created to mark it. And it’s special to talk to people who had unique perspectives of the day and the man.

Judge Jones’ tale is fascinating.

His Kennedy story starts with the reality that most blacks back then had an affinity for Nixon due to his connection to the popular Dwight Eisenhower. Judge Jones was an Adlai Stevenson fan.

Kennedy was having problems with the black vote, having supported legislation as a U.S. Senator that was deemed not supportive of black voting rights.

Judge Jones was invited to a Kennedy rally in New York City that was intended to fix things with the black community. There, Kennedy made some pledges of what he would do for the black community. At the time, there was just one federal black judge and no black U.S. attorneys.

“Politicians all make promises,” Judge Jones said.

It was October 1960 — weeks before the election. Kennedy won.

Judge Jones said he never would have believed at that point that he would be one of the first blacks to eventually ascend into the U.S. Justice Department as Kennedy stuck to his pledge. It was 1962, and a crowd packed a Youngstown courthouse as Smoky Hollow’s Nathaniel Jones would become an assistant U.S. attorney for this region, but, more importantly, it was a testament of Kennedy’s promise.

“Kennedy was a man who grew. He had within him a value system that permitted him to make the right choices when confronted with challenges.

“The lesson from Kennedy is to measure not a person’s intellect or college degrees, but their values — how they view human beings and the obligation we have to try to improve the human condition.”

Summed up simply by Judge Jones:

“He was a great man.”

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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