Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julia Virginia Jones, October 6, 1997. Interview J-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Early career choices, considerations, and working relationships

This rather lengthy passage uncovers a great deal about Jones's work life and personal beliefs. Jones discusses her first job experiences as a young female law clerk. Her employer, Judge Woodrow Jones, exhibited protection over Jones after her divorce, which Jones welcomed because of the loss of her father. It also discusses southern hospitality, a theme mentioned earlier in the interview. Jones obtained the clerkship because of the judge's open-minded ideas of women and work.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julia Virginia Jones, October 6, 1997. Interview J-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

NANCY S. FRIEDMAN:
You had said that you had done a clerkship with Woodrow Jones. Was it in your third year that you decided that you wanted to do that?
JUDGE JULIA V. JONES:
Yes, first of all, I had, I think, a non-traditional route to law school. An entire thought process. I did not interview with any large firms or small firms because I was married and planning to return to a town and live with my husband wherever that was. I really had no clue what lawyers did, and this is a true story about how I clerked for Woodrow Jones. He was sitting in the Dean's office at Wake Forest, at lunch time one day, and I walked in and I had on blue jeans and a t-shirt. Now it wasn't a t-shirt with a slogan, it was before that time, but still it was blue jeans and t-shirt. The secretary got me around the corner and she said, "Do you know where your roommate is. We've got Judge Jones here and he's supposed to interview her at 1:00, and he's here early and the Dean's not here, and here we've got this federal judge sitting out here in our office twiddling his thumbs." And I said, "No, I don't know where Judy is." Then I took a deep breath and thought about what I had on, and I said, "But I know Judge Jones because my husband has appeared in front of him and we live in the same area, and I'll just come out and chit chat with him a little bit." I had great trepidation of doing that considering the way I looked. I had not signed up to interview with him. The reason was because he wanted a two-year commitment, and at that point I really wanted to start a family and wasn't sure that I wanted to give a two-year commitment. I had interviewed at Legal Services, the Public Defender's Office and a couple places like that. That's what I was looking at. Anyway, to make this long story shorter, I walked up and introduced myself to the Chief District Court Judge for the Western District of North Carolina, in the Dean's Office at Wake Forest, in my jeans and t-shirt. It didn't seem to faze him one bit, and he said "Are you going to interview with me?" And I said, "No", and all of a sudden the truth popped out. And he said, "Well, my goodness we can work that out. You can have a family and work for me too. In fact I've been toying with the idea of having a permanent clerk, and you live in Shelby which is thirty minutes from Rutherfordton where I live, and that's something we could think about." Well, I mean, I hadn't even given any thought to this before this point in time. So, we talked a little bit and he said, "Well, I'm going to interview here today, and then I'll call you." That was probably around the first of November, and he called me and I drove up to Rutherfordton, I remember during the Thanksgiving break of 1976. I went up to his house, met his wife. I had heard the rumor that he really wanted people who lived in the area, because he found that if people weren't used to a small rural town in North Carolina that they were very unhappy. He didn't want an unhappy clerk. So, I interviewed with him. He didn't offer me the job on the spot, but I felt like I would probably get it, and sure enough he called me a couple days later and offered me the job. It was one of those situations that I was in the right place at the right time. I didn't plan it. Somebody was looking after me when I couldn't look after myself. I did clerk for him for two years. It was a very positive experience. He is a wonderful man. It was a great transition for me from "liberal law school" to the real world. He was very much a real world person. Plenty of people described him as conservative. I think he was a true democrat, and thoroughly enjoyed working for him. We often had discussions about women, and minorities and I think I learned a lot from him, and he learned a lot from me. I remember when I got ready to leave, and I told him I was going to be working at Moore & Van Allen. He had had a woman clerk before, but she ended up teaching school. I was the first woman lawyer who he really knew intended to go practice in the court room. I always remember that she shook my hand and looked me in the eye, and said, "You can do it." So, it was really wonderful. He is very formal, and I remember the first year at Christmas, there was a secretary and a baliff and me. He chose to have a baliff to drive his car rather than two clerks. He had also been on the bench a long time, and he did not need much criminal work at all. I did mostly civil. We were trying to decide what to do for him for Christmas. We are Southern, and you do a little token. So, we decided to send him a poinsettia, and we did it at noon on the Friday before we were going to be out for the Christmas holiday. He came back after lunch with hot cookies that I assume he had his wife bake during lunch, because he just couldn't stand it that we had sent him something and he could not reciprocate. He was that type of a Southern gentleman and person. The fun thing for me was, he mellowed very much during the two years I was with him. I think one of the reasons he mellowed is that I went through a divorce the last couple of months, and he was very protective of me. I might have resented that at some other time, but I needed. . . My father died many many years ago, and so it was nice to have an older man. He took this very professional, but we became much closer friends because of my adversity and he became much less formal. As the years have gone by, he has become much less formal with everyone I think. Now, he may not like me saying that. I mean it certainly as a compliment. He is also the silver haired justice. He really did practice what he preached; worked hard; never expected me to do something he wouldn't do himself. So, anyway, I clerked for him, and as a result of clerking for him all the doors opened up for jobs.