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Clarence B. Jones

Clarence B. Jones

Advisor & Speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr.


Dr. Clarence B. Jones is currently the First Diversity Visiting Professor at the University of San Francisco and a scholar writer in residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute, Stanford University, and Palo Alto, CA. His lecture courses include “From Slavery to Obama” and “The Art of Advocacy Speech Writing.” Read More >

In a distinguished and heralded career, Jones has served as political advisor, counsel, and draft speechwriter for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; joined Sanford I. Weill and Arthur Levitt, Jr. in Carter, Berlind & Weill, Inc. as an allied member of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), becoming the first African-American partner in a Wall Street investment banking firm; been twice recognized as Fortune’s Business Man of the Month; and founded successful financial, corporate and media-related ventures. He has also provided strategic legal and financial consulting services to several governments around the world including those in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Zambia.

Dr. Jones has received numerous awards recognizing his significant contributions to American society. Through his work in the civil rights movement, he dramatically impacted the course of American history. He coordinated the legal defense of Dr. King and the other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference against the libel suits filed against them and The New York Times by the police commissioner and other city officials of Birmingham, AL. The Supreme Court ruling in this case – Sullivan vs. The New York Times – resulted in the landmark decision on the current law of libel. In April 1963, he drafted the settlement agreement between the City of Birmingham and Martin Luther King, Jr. to bring about the end of demonstrations and the desegregation of department stores and public accommodations. He assisted Dr. King in the drafting of his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech that he delivered at the March on Washington, August 28th, 1963. In September 1971, Dr. Jones again found himself at the center of history in the making when, at the request of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, he helped negotiate an end to the historic Attica prison inmate rebellion and for many years thereafter became involved in "Prison Reform."

Dr. Jones has a bi-monthly column on Huffington Post which discusses a range of topics from race to finance to politics and more. He has also been the subject of numerous television and radio interview programs, appearing in such notable media vehicles as CNN, The O’Reilly Factor, The Tavis Smiley Show, NY1’s One-on-One with Budd Mishkin, NPR radio, BBC UK (radio and TV), CBS local and National, The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC, Canadian Broadcasting, Alitjd Wat Dutch TV, the Charlie Rose Show, AL Jazeera, Sirius XM”s the Bob Edwards Show, and featured in articles in the Washington Post, USA Today, Vanity Fair, UK Sunday Mirror, Time, and Ebony and Jet Magazines. He has recently been a part of The March, a documentary on the March on Washington, jointly produced by Sundance /BBC/Smoking Dogs/PBS. He has just finished being filmed for a program on The Letter from the Birmingham Jail for Al Jazeera America.

He is co-author of What Would Martin Say? (2008), Behind the Dream-The Making of the Speech That Transformed A Nation (2011) and the audio version of the book, which was released on August 20th, 2013. He also co-authored an E-book, UPRISING: Understanding Attica, Revolution and the Incarceration State. Dr. Jones posts a regular column for the Huffington Post and is also writing his autobiography: A Pencil and A Dollar Bill- Memoirs From An African-American Journey From the Depression to The Election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Dr. Jones has been recognized for his illustrious career with honors awarded by a wide variety of distinguished organizations, including: Selected by Time Magazine in 1972 as one of 100 Future Leaders of America; Letter of Commendation from President William J. Clinton, for work in Birmingham, Alabama on behalf of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement; Inductee, Walk of Fame, Martin Luther King Center, Atlanta, GA, 2008; January 2013 honoree of the African-American Museum of History, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC, moderated by Wil Haygood; Speaker at Deepak Chopra’s Sages and Scientists Symposium August 2013; and a Participating Panelist at the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Mississippi Voter Registration in June 2014.

A much requested speaker, he has addressed corporate audiences at Citigroup and the U.S. headquarters of British Petroleum, GE, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, The Limited and Google headquarters and laws firms such as Sullivan & Cromwell and Andrews Kurth, Texas. He was the featured speaker at Rutgers University School of Law, The Sciences Po, Paris, and The American Institute at Oxford University, The British Library, the Bristol Book Fair, and the Aye Write Book Fair in Glasgow. He has spoken at Veterans Administrations Hospitals, The California African-American Association of School Superintendents, the New York Public Library, the NYC 92nd Street “Y”, the New Albany Community Foundation, Columbus, OH. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Honoring Martin Luther King's Dream in the 21st Century

University of San Francisco

Dreaming On, Marching On

Speech Topics

The 21st Century Challenge of the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was the 20th century's pre-eminent apostle of non-violence and the pursuit of justice. From Dr. King's beautifully illustrated philosophies in his 1963 Letter From A Birmingham Jail to the powerful "I Have A Dream" speech, Jones’ finds that 50 years later, the same challenges of racial segregation and unfair treatment are still posed for civil society today.

The Color of Skin vs. The Context of Character in the 21st Century

Jones’ gives a frank discussion on the translation of this phrase extracted from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. More specifically, the conditions of present-day America are scrutinized in comparison to the challenge of Dr. King and whether society is consistent or inconsistent with the message.

Redefining the Landscape of Corporate America

The expression “Nero while Rome burned” refers to heedless and irrelevant behavior in the midst of a crisis. Jones’ believes much of Corporate America is the “Neroes” of today. In his speech, he revisits and redefines the landscape of Corporate Responsibility and its response to many of the social, economic, and educational problems in society.

Education in America Today: Why Are We So Far Behind?

This speech objectively lays out a summation of the facts pertaining to education today. With communication based technology being the main source of gathering information in our society, the absence of education hurts young people, causing an influx of uneducated students. Therefore, these insufficient youth, as deemed by society, are unable to make a meaningful economic contribution to sustain themselves and their families. Jones’ goal is to shed light on some of the possible options for action and other solutions in order to address and redress the education problem in America today.