New endowment named for alumnus Lionel Jones will support BIPOC students

Alumnus was first Black judge on Provincial Court of Alberta and first Black justice on Court of Queen’s Bench

Helen Metella and Sarah Kent - 18 November 2021

The newly established Lionel Jones Memorial Endowment in Law at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law honours a renowned alumnus and will support law students who self-identify as Black, Indigenous or Persons of Colour.

Lionel Jones, ‘63 LLB, was the second Black person to graduate from the U of A’s Faculty of Law and the first Black person to be appointed as a judge to the Provincial Court of Alberta and subsequently as a justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.

He was appointed to the provincial bench in 1977 and then elevated to the Court of Queen’s Bench in 1995, serving for six years before retiring in 2001.

Jones died on October 19, 2016, aged 78.

The endowment was initiated by retired Justice Anne Russell, who was a classmate of Jones. Endowment funds were contributed by his classmates and friends. Significant funds were also contributed by the law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.

"Over a span of 64 years Lionel was my friend, classmate and colleague,” said Russell. “Although he never acknowledged or complained about any form of discrimination, it was not always easy to have been one of the very few persons of colour in Edmonton during that era.”

“He was cherished as a friend by so many, as a classmate by the class of Law ’63, and as a colleague in the legal profession and on the courts. As a judge he was admired for his compassion, patience and fairness. He is remembered as a valued mentor to so many, as a talented pianist, and as a loving and much-loved husband, step-father and grandfather.”

The endowment funds will be used to promote racial diversity, equity and inclusion and to support law students who self-identify as Black, Indigenous or Persons of Colour.

“Osler is committed to the promotion and expansion of diversity in the legal profession, and we are extremely proud to be able to contribute to a University of Alberta award in the name of Lionel Jones,” said Brian Thiessen, QC, managing partner (Calgary) of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.

“It is always a proud and humbling moment for the Faculty of Law when members of the legal community join together to support our students,” said Dean Barbara Billingsley of the Faculty of Law.

“In this case, we are especially honoured that Justice Anne Russell, along with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP and many individual alumni, have chosen to honour the legacy of Justice Lionel Jones by funding this endowment to support and promote diversity in our student body.”

Jones achieved numerous milestones in the legal profession, beginning with his call to the bar in June 1964, when he became the first Black man and the second Black lawyer to be admitted to the Law Society of Alberta. (He was preceded by Violet King, ‘53 LLB, who had been admitted to the bar 10 years earlier.)

Prior to serving on the bench, he worked drafting legislation and as a crown prosecutor in the Office of the Attorney General of Alberta. He later served as senior crown counsel in the Department of Justice.

Jones taught as a sessional instructor for the Faculty of Law and for the law enforcement program at MacEwan University. He was the first recipient of the James Bell Award for “outstanding courage and achievement against challenging odds,” awarded by the National Black Coalition of Canada in 1990.