Richard S. (“Dick”) Jones Jr., of the Franklin law firm Jones, Key, Melvin & Patton, P.A., received the John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award from the North Carolina State Bar at its recent Annual Meeting in Raleigh.
The DSA is one of the highest honors awarded by the State Bar as it seeks to recognize those who have both cultivated knowledge of the law and enhanced public confidence in the law.
Among several criteria for the award is the devotion of professional time and resources to ensure equal access to justice for all those who, because of economic or social barriers, cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel. Jones grew up in Franklin during the Great Depression and his mother served on the county’s ration board. His father had served as a North Carolina State Senator but was primarily a practicing lawyer in Franklin. His grandfather (George A. Jones), prior to his service as a Superior Court Judge, started the law firm in Franklin that continues to this day.
The award nomination noted: “As a result of the environment in which he was raised, Dick Jones was aware of the need to serve his fellow citizens, regardless of their economic status or education, or ability to pay. This awareness was ingrained in him, due to life experiences and a family legacy of public service, long before official programs became necessary to encourage pro bono work ...
As an attorney for 50 years, his office door has always been open for help to those who need it, regardless of the economic or social condition of the client.”
It is not feasible to express, in quantifiable terms, Dick’s commitment to ‘equal access to justice’ but it has been very real to at least two generations of Maconians and has been recognized by his peers, who through the N.C. Bar Association, inducted him into the General Practice Hall of Fame in 1999. Later, in 2005, a ‘Justice Fund’ was established with the N.C. Bar Association, honoring Dick’s commitment to the pursuit of justice and outstanding service to the profession and general public.
What motivates someone to work 50 years in one job? According to the Bar, “Those who know Dick Jones, both inside and outside the practice of law, will testify that he exhibits a genuine, deeply rooted, love of the practice of law.” And, according to Jones, his long and successful career is attributable to the support of his law partners and associates, the Firm’s staff, and the enduring commitment of his wife, Melissa, who came to the office to help on a “short-term” basis in 1974.
The active and continued participation of Dick Jones in the courtroom, closing rooms, and board rooms has introduced a perspective, a set of values, and guiding principles necessary to a long, successful, and happy career. In this world of rapid career transition, relocation, and burnout, Dick’s commitment to the work of his life enriches the legal profession and stands apart from today’s recognized norms.
Dick Jones is the first, and remains the only, Distinguished Service Award and Justice Fund honoree practicing west of Asheville. Highlights of his career include service to the State Bar as a full member, chairman and then emeritus member of the Board of Law Examiners since 1983 and service as Macon County Attorney for 35 years.