Color of law
larryb | April 26, 2007 at 07:47 amby
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When Harold Jones was hired to prosecute misdemeanors at the Richmond County solicitor’s office in 1996, he was only African-American attorney on the staff. When he ran for the solicitor’s post in 2004, he was still the only African-American.
That’s when he began to do what no one else in the legal profession in Augusta has ever done. In a city where more than half the residents are black, none of the larger firms — public or private — had a diverse group of attorneys that in any way approximated the populace.
Jones began to actively diversify the solicitor’s office. Ironically, his first hire was a white man, but over the next two years Jones was able to hire three African-American attorneys (as well as five whites) to jobs in his nine-attorney office.
That quickly made his the most diverse in the city. Of the nine largest firms, only two employ an African-American (one of whom is State Sen. Ed Tarver). The District Attorney’s office has only one black attorney and the public defender’s office has two.
And while similar problems may be seen among doctors, engineers or other professional groups, the problem is most evident among lawyers. Fewer than 15 percent of the public legal jobs in the Richmond, Columbia and Burke County judicial district are filled by African-Americans. If it weren’t for Jones’ office, the number would be closer to 5 percent.
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