Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman French Hill (AR-02)
WASHINGTON D.C. — Rep. French Hill (AR-02) released the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed the Scipio Jones Post Office Portrait Act, which allows a portrait of civil rights champion Scipio Jones to be displayed in the Little Rock post office bearing his name.
“I am proud to announce that, last night, the Scipio Jones Post Office Portrait Act passed the Senate and is headed to the president’s desk to become law. I introduced this bill because it became evident to me that it was going to take a literal ‘act of Congress’ to direct that a portrait of one of Arkansas’s and the nation’s most important civil rights champions to hang in the post office bearing his name. I am proud of this accomplishment on behalf of the people of central Arkansas, and I am grateful to my Arkansas colleagues in the House for their support in attaining unanimous approval of this bill in the House. And; I appreciate the work of Senators Boozman and Cotton for partnering with me to introduce the companion bill in the Senate. I know that generations of Arkansans will enjoy the visual reminder of Scipio Jones’ important role in American history.”
About Scipio Jones
Scipio Africanus Jones, who was born to an enslaved person in 1863, attended Walden Seminary (now Philander Smith College) and then attended Bethel Institute (now Shorter College), earning his bachelor’s degree in 1885. In 1889, Jones passed the bar and was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Arkansas in 1900 and by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1905.
After the horrific massacre of Black Americans in Elaine, Arkansas, in 1919, he defended 12 wrongly-accused Black men who had been charged with murder and condemned by all-white juries.
Despite its being described as a “race riot,” most of the victims were Black and most of the aggressors were white. With his clients already facing execution, Jones fought their convictions in both state and federal courts. An appeal was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the accused had been denied due process of law. After reviewing the case, the Supreme Court agreed and overturned the convictions. Moore v. Dempsey changed the nature of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause. The ruling allowed for federal courts to hear and examine evidence in state criminal cases to ensure that the defendants’ constitutional rights were protected. It was a landmark ruling that sought to ensure that those accused of a crime had received due process.
About H.R. 3317, Scipio Jones Post Office Portrait Act
In 2007, the House passed legislation to name the post office located at 1700 Main Street in Little Rock, Arkansas, after Jones.
Today, a plaque at the post office bears his name, but post office regulations restrict the items that can be placed on display.
On June 18, 2019, Rep. Hill introduced legislation to allow a full-sized portrait of Scipio Jones to be on display at the post office in Little Rock which bears his name. Funds for the portrait will be raised privately and no taxpayer money will be spent on the artwork. The legislation passed the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on December 19, 2019, passed the full House on February 5, 2020, and passed the Senate on November 18, 2020.