Knowledge. Experience. Results.

Recognizing the Remarkable Legacy of Alberta Odell Jones

Alberta Jones was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 12, 1930.

In 1959, Alberta was the first African American woman to pass the Kentucky Bar and accepted her first case the day after she received notification that she had passed. Alberta then opened her own practice in Louisville at 2018 West Broadway. She also became a member of the Fall City Bar Association, the Louisville Bar Association and the American Bar Association.

Alberta was the first attorney for Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali); she negotiated his first professional fight contract in 1960. Alberta also negotiated an agreement with eleven white millionaires, the famous Louisville Sponsoring Group. To protect her client, Muhammad Ali, Jones insisted that 15% of his winnings be held in a trust until he turned 35, with Alberta serving as a co-trustee. Today, the contract hangs on the wall of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville.

In 1963, Alberta participated in the civil rights marches in Louisville and the march in Washington on August 28, 1963. Alberta was also involved with the Louisville chapter of the Urban League and was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). After returning from Washington, she advocated for increased African American political participation, and Alberta formed the Independent Voters Association of Louisville, which helped educate and register African American voters. The Independent Voters Association registered 6,000 African American voters, and Alberta rented voting machines and held classes in her office on “how to vote for your candidate.” In 1961, Alberta’s efforts in aiding African Americans with the right to vote, in turn, resulted in replacing the mayor and other city officials. Two years later, the new city administration enacted the first public accommodations ordinance in the South, outlawing racial discrimination in business. Alberta told the Courier-Journal in March of 1965, “We taught the Negros how to use that voting machine.”

In 1964, Alberta became the first woman of any race to be appointed city attorney in Jefferson County. Jones was then the first woman of color to be appointed prosecutor for the Louisville Domestic Relations Court in February 1965. Alberta was ironically responsible for prosecuting primarily white men for spousal abuse. In 1954, Alberta told the Louisville Courier-Journal in a headline “Hard to Keep Up With, That’s Alberta Jones” that people would say to her, “You’ve got two strikes against you. You’re a woman, and you’re a Negro,” to which she would respond by saying, “Yeah, but I’ve got one strike left, and I’ve seen people get home runs when all they’ve got left is one strike.”

On August 4, 1965, Alberta received a phone call from a friend and agreed to meet them to discuss a lawsuit. Alberta never came home that night, and Alberta’s family reported her missing that morning. Later that day, on August 5, 1965, Alberta Odell Jones was found, and her life was cut short. To this day, Alberta’s case remains unsolved.

Today, you can find the “Alberta’s Louisville” banner that hangs on the River City Bank building downtown at 6th and Muhammad Ali as a part of Louisville’s Hometown Heroes Program. You can also visit Alberta O. Jones Park, which was named by Alberta Jones’s younger sister, Flora Shanklin, and is blocks away from Alberta’s first law firm. The recognition of Alberta Jones from the park is fitting because Jones was focused on helping children. After Alberta’s passing, her younger sister Franklin found written in Alberta’s diary, “When I die and cross the way, no greater epitaph will be there, for some small child to say, Gee, she did a lot for me.”