Four days after his 52nd birthday, Associate Professor of Law and Philosophy Jeff Jones passed away on Christmas morning, 2020. Having taught at Lewis & Clark Law School for 13 years, Jones was the recipient of the Leo Levenson Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018. The undergraduate and law campuses knew him as a comforting and considerate mentor for students.
On Jan. 29, a total of 217 members of the LC and Portland-area communities gathered over Zoom to honor his life and accomplished career as a part of a celebration of life ceremony.
In a speech, law student Amanda Pham Haines, J.D. ’21, paid tribute to the “dynamic, humor-inducing intellectual” that they called their friend and their advocate. As a woman of color, Pham Haines remembers Jones as someone who gave space for her racial identity and her whole presence.
“He rehumanized law school,” Pham Haines said. “Professor Jones was an institution.”
In an area of academia oft-considered taxing and cold, Jones’ gentle warmth stood out to both his students and his colleagues. Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Law John Parry said that Jones helped new students adjust to the rigors of law school.
“(Jones) really devoted an enormous amount of time helping students get through the hard first parts of law school, which can be really disorienting,” Parry said. “One way to honor his legacy is to double down on that and recommit to that level of friendship and mentoring.”
Department Chair and Associate Professor of Philosophy Joel Martinez spoke about Jones’ impact on the undergraduate campus.
“I will remember that glow, that sparkle, that smile,” Martinez said.
“We will always remember the light he brought to our little corner of Palatine Hill.”
Parry explained that Jones brought a distinct academic background as a law school professor with both a Ph.D. in philosophy and a law degree.
“He was never pretentious about that,” Parry said. “It was just part of his toolkit.”
Jones’ humility resonated with law student Jazmine Bowens, J.D. ’21, who spoke at the celebration with poetic reverence.
“A student would ask to sit at his feet, and he’d offer us his chair instead,” she said.
As a Black woman, Bowens found Jones’ unwavering support to be an empowering reminder that she belonged at LC. The day before he passed, Jones sent Bowens a thoughtful email about her capstone project.
“At 10:44 a.m. on Dec. 24, I tweeted ‘Jones eviscerated my imposter syndrome with a one-paragraph review,’” she said.
The enormous influence Jones had on Bowens makes the simple word “mentor” seem inadequate.
“(Jones was) my lighthouse. Someone I could always find to guide me in the Portland fog when I was lost, and I was often lost,” Bowens said.
Jones’ devotion to his students and commitment to social justice lives on in the Jeffrey Jones Tribute Fund. Distinguished Professor of Law Susan Mandiberg wrote in an email that the $500.00 reward will be given annually to a graduating law student committed to justice through their volunteer work, employment, publications or trial and appellate briefs.
Dean and Erskine Wood Sr. Professor of Law Jennifer Johnson hopes to endow the fund.
“We wanted to set it up so we can honor him forever,” Johnson said.
In 2018, with support from the law school, Jones founded Legalcide. According to the Legalcide website, the “edutainment” platform hoped “to raise the legal intelligence quotients of Americans,” particularly those who could not afford a lawyer. Jones’ columns covered topics as abstract as the legal personhood of a river in New Zealand to topics as intimate as his experiences with the police as a Black man.
About Legalcide, Parry said that Jones “hadn’t gone as far down that road as he wanted to.” Parry thinks that there is a possibility that the law school will continue Legalcide in some format.
“I wish I could talk to him more about what he envisioned for it,” Parry said.
Parry spoke about the atmosphere of mourning across both campuses.
“It’s like losing someone who you thought would just, kind of always be there,” he said.
Amidst the grief, Johnson remembers Jones’ “award-winning smile” and the twinkle in his eye.
“When I talked to Tamara, his wife, she said, ‘I only want happy memories,’” Johnson said.
Jones is survived by his wife, Attorney Tamara Jones, his mother, Brenda Jones and his sisters Sherri and Stacey. Members of the LC community can share memories of Jones with his family using an online tribute form, available on the official college website.