One of Little Rock`s most richly detailed Craftsman-style houses was built around 1928 for Scipio Africanus Jones, an African-American attorney. Jones was one of the prominent members of Little Rock’s black community during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The house is located at the northwest corner of 19th and Cross streets. The variety and quality of materials used in the home’s construction — brick, stucco, tile and granite — distinguish it from its neighbors and indicate that it was built for an owner of more-than-average means. The house also is significant for its association with Jones and his accomplishments. It was listed in National Register of Historic Places on May 28, 1999.
A lawyer`s story
Born into slavery in rural Arkansas in 1863, Scipio Jones moved to Little Rock around 1881 to further his education. He finished a preparatory course at Philander Smith College, then enrolled in North Little Rock’s Shorter College, graduating with a bachelor’s degree. He subsequently became a teacher while “reading law" in the office of three white attorneys. Jones` long legal career began when he passed the bar examination in 1889, becoming one of Little Rock’s first black lawyers.
Jones practiced law in Little Rock for more than 50 years. He is remembered especially for winning the release of 12 black men convicted of murder following the Elaine, Arkansas, Race Riot of October 1919. Jones` successful appeal on their behalf resulted in his receiving national recognition during the 1920s. The disturbance occurred when an attempt was made to organize black sharecroppers in the eastern Arkansas Delta. Several whites and more blacks were killed, leading to the arrests of more than 100 African Americans. Within a month, an all-white jury convicted 12 black men of murder and sentenced them to death. The NAACP hired a white Little Rock attorney, George W. Murphy, to appeal the convictions. Murphy asked Scipio Jones to assist him. When Murphy suddenly died, Jones took the lead, and charges against six of the men were eventually dismissed. To assist the other six defendants in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the NAACP again hired a white lawyer, Moorfield Storey, but Jones is credited with preparing the briefs on which Storey’s successful argument was based.
Because of the respect he earned as a lawyer and leader of the black community, Jones also served as a bridge to Little Rock’s white power structure.
Long before Jones attracted national attention, he was well-known locally as the attorney for several black fraternal organizations and as a powerful member of the Republican Party in Arkansas. He worked for years, not always successfully, to ensure that African Americans had a voice in party decisions. Despite white Republicans’ growing support for segregation during the late-19th and early-20th centuries, Jones held several responsible party positions, including serving as a delegate to the 1928 Republican National Convention.
Living in the Dunbar neighborhood
During his more than 60 years in Little Rock, Jones owned several residences. following his marriage in 1896, Jones moved with his bride, Carrie, to 1808 Ringo Street in what now is the Dunbar School Neighborhood. Their only child, Hazel, was born there. Around the time of Carrie Jones’ death in 1908, Scipio and Hazel Jones moved a few doors down the street to 1822 Ringo Street. In 1917, Scipio Jones married Lillie Jackson. Their first home together, a frame Colonial Revival cottage, still stands at 1911 Pulaski Street. They lived at that address until 1928, when they moved into their new Craftsman-style home at 1872 Cross Street.
Although the house on Pulaski Street was Jones’ residence during the period when he was representing the Elaine Race Riot defendants, the more substantial and stylish house on Cross Street represents the fruit of his career because it was made possible by the wealth he accumulated during his many years as a lawyer. Both Scipio and Lillie Jones lived out their lives on Cross Street. Scipio Jones died in the home on March 28, 1943.