Pioneering attorney and civil rights leader Alberta Jones of Louisville

Those seeking a breakthrough in the 52-year-old murder case of the Louisville attorney and civil rights pioneer Alberta Jones are not only receiving new hope with next month’s unveiling of her large “Hometown Heroes” banner in downtown Louisville, but also the front-page profile of Jones’ story in Wednesday’s issue of The New York Times.

Jones became the first African-American woman to pass the Kentucky bar exam in 1959 and the state’s first female prosecutor in 1965, but just five months later was abducted from her car, beaten and thrown off the Sherman Minton Bridge, with her murderers never being caught.

The front-page New York Times article not only recounts Jones’ work to register thousands of African-American voters and integrate the city, but recent attempts by law enforcement to solve the murder, after Bellarmine professor Lee Remington persuaded the Louisville Metro Police Department to reopen the cold case last year.

Sgt. Nicholas Owen, the lead investigator on the Jones case, told The Times that there had been few breakthroughs so far, though, the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division is now reviewing the case, as well. Flora Shanklin — Jones’ 81-year-old sister — believes someone paid the murderers, while Remington thinks her death was directly related to the work she was doing. The article also featured an interview with a man whose fingerprint was found in the car Jones was driving the night she was murdered, as well as a mention of an old theory that Jones was targeted by the Nation of Islam related to Muhammad Ali’s first boxing contract that she had negotiated.

Shanklin and Remington hope that this new publicity will jog people’s memories and bring a new lead to the case, including the new large banner of Jones that will soon hang in downtown on the River City Bank building at 6th and Muhammad Ali, as part of The Greater Louisville Pride Foundation’s Hometown Heroes program. The unveiling ceremony had previously been scheduled for next Monday, but will now be held at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 9.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]