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Roma Jones Stewart

Attorney, Illinois solicitor general and genealogical researcher Roma Jones Stewart was born on August 10, 1936, in Chicago. Although Stewart's father, Sidney A. Jones, became judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and one of the first African American members of the Chicago Bar Association, she never thought she would become a lawyer. The guests in her childhood home included Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall. Stewart attended mostly white Kosminski Elementary School and Hyde Park High School, graduating in 1954. At Fisk University, Edward Pessan taught her and she attended lectures by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and African American women's activist Anna Arnold Hedgemon. She graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1957

Stewart married former husband, Ronald, in 1960 and together they lived with their children in Japan and Burma. Returning to the United States, Stewart entered Georgetown Law School, earning a J. D. in 1972. She clerked for District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Harry T. Alexander in 1973 and moved on to the District of Columbia's Corporation Council as a prosecutor. In 1976, Stewart joined Hudson, Leftwich and Davenport where she handled federal employment discrimination cases, eventually establishing her own practice. Some of her cases include: Love vs. Pullman Co. (1976), Murray vs. Rumsfeld (1981), and Hunt vs. Chicago Housing Authority (1987).

Stewart was appointed director of the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health Education and Welfare in 1979. In 1987, she was appointed solicitor general of Illinois by Illinois Attorney General Neil F. Hartigan.

Now, Stewart continues as a civil rights attorney with a profound interest in African American history, especially genealogy. She is past president of the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society of Chicago and the author of Africans in Georgia: 1870 and Liberia Genealogical Research.

Selected Bibliography

Stewart, Roma Jones. Africans in Georgia: 1870. Chicago: Homeland Publications, 1993.
---. Liberia Genealogical Research. Chicago: Homeland Publications, 1991.

Accession Number

A2003.261

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/3/2003

Last Name

Stewart

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Jones

Organizations
Schools

Hyde Park Academy High School

Charles Kozminski Elementary Community Academy

First Name

Roma

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

STE05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Salt Lake City, Utah

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/10/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

State solicitor general Roma Jones Stewart (1936 - ) served as the director of the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Stewart was later appointed as Illinois Solicitor General and is a past president of the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society of Chicago.

Employment

District of Columbia Superior Court

District of Columbia Corporation Council

Hudson, Leftwich & Davenport

United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare

State of Illinois

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roma Jones Stewart's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Roma Jones Stewart lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Roma Jones Stewart describes researching her family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roma Jones Stewart describes her family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roma Jones Stewart talks about tracing her ancestors to 1740

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roma Jones Stewart tells stories of her 19th century ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roma Jones Stewart describes the book she is writing about her ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roma Jones Stewart talks about conducting research on the Civil War

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Roma Jones Stewart describes her parents and childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Roma Jones Stewart describes her father's legal career

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Roma Jones Stewart describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Roma Jones Stewart describes how race affected her education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Roma Jones Stewart describes growing up in Hyde Park, Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Roma Jones Stewart talks about being exposed to culture and politics in her family

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Roma Jones Stewart describes her favorite teacher at Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Roma Jones Stewart remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Roma Jones Stewart describes attending law school at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Roma Jones Stewart describes marrying Ronald Stewart and living in Tokyo

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Roma Jones Stewart shares her memories of living in Japan in the 1960s, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Roma Jones Stewart shares her memories of living in Japan in the 1960s, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Roma Jones Stewart describes working as a lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Roma Jones Stewart talks about being a criminal prosecutor

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Roma Jones Stewart describes working on civil rights law and accepting a job at Hudson, Leftwich, and Davenport

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Roma Jones Stewart describes Love v. Pullman Co.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Roma Jones Stewart describes the conclusion of Love v. Pullman Co.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Roma Jones Stewart describes her involvement with employment discrimination lawsuits against the Department of Defense, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Roma Jones Stewart describes her involvement with employment discrimination lawsuits against the Department of Defense, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Roma Jones Stewart talks about her work at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW)

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Roma Jones Stewart talks about attending the U.N. Conference on Women in Copenhagen

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Roma Jones Stewart describes becoming Solicitor General of Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Roma Jones Stewart recalls being admitted along with her brother to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Roma Jones Stewart talks about her family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Roma Jones Stewart reflects upon her career success

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Roma Jones Stewart talks about her future plans

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Roma Jones Stewart describes the books she has written about Liberia and Ghana

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Roma Jones Stewart describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Roma Jones Stewart describes her lack of regrets in life

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Roma Jones Stewart reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Roma Jones Stewart narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Roma Jones Stewart describes Love v. Pullman Co.
Roma Jones Stewart talks about attending the U.N. Conference on Women in Copenhagen
Transcript
Can you tell us a little more about the case [Love v. Pullman Co.]?$$Yes.$$Because I think this was one of the--a major Civil Rights action, wasn't it?$$Yes. Oh, it was a major case. It went all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States. It was thrown out. It went all the way up to the Supreme Court, and then it was sent back down for trial. And these were the Pullman porters who basically lived on tips. They made $35 a month, except when they worked as Porter-in-Charge; then they made $38 a month. A Porter-in-Charge is someone who does all the work of a porter and all of the work of a conductor. But because he is black, he can never be a conductor. After the Civil Rights Act was passed, the first thing Earl Love did, a porter out of Denver, Colorado, was to go to the Colorado Human Rights Commission and file a complaint. And that, after going all the way up to the Supreme Court and back down again, finally was getting ready for trial; a nationwide class action, meaning all Pullman porters in America were part of that class. So there was a firm that had been assigned the case out of Denver, but they hadn't been doing very much with the case; so some of the porters came to Hudson, Leftwich and Davenport, about 80 of them. We represented about 88 of the class members. And basically, we carried that lawsuit. We did all of the depositions; we set up an assembly line for preparing Pullman porters for their depositions; we did dozens of them, prepared dozens of them. We took depositions of conductors. We took a deposition of a white conductor who said he didn't even want to retire. They gave him all of his money. They didn't give any of the Pullman porters any severance, anything. They said they could get another job with this railroad or that railroad. It was blatant. It was the kind of discrimination you don't see any more. Thank goodness. Just blatant, vicious, racist. The Pullman porters said that they had to sleep in the toilet. They couldn't sleep in a bunk. They couldn't sleep where the conductors slept. And they talked about all the indignities. One of the porters, I was preparing him for his deposition, and he was fudging with his answer. We wanted them to be so prepared that they would answer any question without hesitation. And he fudged the question, and I--we use every tactic we can to prepare people for deposition--so I slammed my palm on the floor; I said, "Answer the damn question." And he said, "No, I won't. I won't. I won't tell how we had to sleep under brown blankets. I won't tell how we had to sleep in the toilets. I won't tell--I don't want my family knowing what we had to put up with every day. And that don't means we lose the lawsuit. I won't tell it. I won't tell it. I won't tell it," he said. And everybody in the room just--was thunderstruck. Just--I didn't know what to say next, you know. But you know what? He had gotten it out of him. And when he went for his deposition, he told it. And after a while, they didn't want to take anymore depositions. The lawyers for the Pullman Company, they said, "That's enough. We've had enough."$$That's a wonderful story.$And then the Secretary [of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Patricia Roberts Harris] asked me to represent her at the U.N. Conference on Women in Copenhagen [Denmark]. So I went to Copenhagen for--what, three or four weeks, I think it was, for the conference there. And that was extremely interesting. I guess for the first time in my life, I realized that most of the people of the world are people of color. I guess I had already always known it, but to see the women of Africa and Asia and China and South America; it was just fantastic. We were divided into committees. Now, committee, you think of a committee as three or four people in a small room like this one; not in the U.N. A committee has 3 or 400 people in it. And the rules of the U.N. are ironclad. You cannot be recognized unless you follow certain protocols. So my committee was chaired by a Supreme Court justice from Sudan, and she would sweep into the committee room in her full African regalia, head wraps and robes, looking like a queen. It was fantastic. But I couldn't talk to her because I didn't speak French. And that was the--sitting at the U.N., of course, you had headphones and you hear simultaneous translators, but unless you speak French, you cannot speak to most of the people of color of this world. That was a terrible shock to me. [HM] Dorothy Height was there. She brought a French-speaking person with her to do her interpreting for her. She was a fantastic individual.