Here's How Alabama's Next Senator Helped Put KKK Members Behind Bars

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

With a remarkably intense senatorial race over in Alabama, you might be wondering about the new senator-elect's professional past. So, where did Doug Jones work? The Democratic nominee-turned-winner has a rich background in law. But that's not it — Jones' legal advocacy for robust civil rights protections for marginalized racial minorities and women covers most of his professional background.

During his younger years, Jones worked for former Alabama Democratic Sen. Howell Heflin, serving as Heflin's staff counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee — that's no small feat. Later on, in the 1980s, Jones served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney; in 1997, he became the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, nominated by President Bill Clinton. By 2001, he returned to private practice by joining a private law firm, and in 2013 founded his own firm, Jones & Hawley, in collaboration with friend and colleague Greg Hawley.

Jones' professional legacy itself is worth looking into, given the heavy subjects he has taken on. Perhaps the most noteworthy professional achievement on his record is the successful prosecution of two Ku Klux Klan members, found guilty of aiding the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. The brutal explosion took the lives of four young African American girls and shook the nation.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Jones' dedication to prosecuting the KKK members is one of the biggest achievements in his professional career. In 2000, the attorney was able to indict both members for their involvement in orchestrating the brutal attack, and convictions were handed down in 2001 and 2002. (Notably, one of the members' ex-wives even offered to provide an account of her own experience regarding the bombing.) Jones remained active on the subject when one of the members was set for parole in 2016, arguing strongly against this prospect; that particular Klansman was ultimately denied parole.

The Washington Post shared details about Jones' interest in the case against the Klansmen. As a law student in the late 1970s, Jones would skip lectures to watch Alabama Attorney General William Joseph Baxley II in court as he prosecuted the ringleader of the bombing. In 1977, the ringleader was found guilty of coordinating the attack.

Jones himself never knew he would be an important figure in taking the Klan members to task. The Post shared Jones' words that came years after the church bombing case.

I never in my wildest imagination dreamed that one day this case and my legal career would come full circle, giving me the opportunity, some 24 years later to prosecute the two remaining suspects for a crime that many say changed the course of history.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Jones also took on other domestic terrorists: in 1998, he led efforts to prosecute Eric Rudolph, the domestic terrorist who confessed to have bombed a women's health center providing abortion services in Birmingham, Alabama (Rudolph also pleaded guilty to committing several other bombings around Atlanta, including another abortion services provider and the 1996 Olympic Games). The Alabama bombing killed one off-duty police officer and injured the center's nurse.

With such professional achievements on his resume, some observers believe that Jones could positively shape the social dynamics in the southern state. Charles Barkley, NBA legend, is one of Jones' biggest supporters who said on Tuesday night that Alabama did "the right thing" by electing Jones. "'I've been so lucky and blessed, but this is one of the greatest nights of my life. I'm so proud of my state for rising up and doing the right thing," Barkley said.

It's not a surprise that with Jones as the victor of Tuesday night's senatorial race, some believe a new era of better social conditions in Alabama for women and people of color may just begin.