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Civil Rights Lawyer Elaine Jones And Millenium-Dome Architect Richard Rogers To Be Honored On Founders Day At U.Va.

March 4, 1999 -- One of America's foremost civil rights lawyers and one of the most inventive architects working in the world today will be honored and give public talks at the University of Virginia on April 13, Thomas Jefferson's birthday.

Elaine R. Jones, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the nation's premier civil rights public-interest law firm, and British architect Richard Rogers, who is currently creating a gigantic, hi-tech Millennium Dome in Greenwich, England, will receive the highest outside honors conferred by U.Va., which grants no honorary degrees. The annual Jefferson awards in law and architecture, two fields of deep interest to Jefferson, are part of the University's Founder's Day activities.

Jones, who in 1970 became the first African-American woman to graduate from the U.Va. School of Law and is now one of the country's most influential leaders on civil rights issues, will receive the 23rd Thomas Jefferson Award in Law. Rogers, a major figure of modern architecture who co-designed the innovative steel-and-glass Pompidou Center in the heart of Paris and who emphasizes technology as a tool to solve social and ecological problems, will receive the 34th Jefferson Medal in Architecture.

The awards are sponsored jointly by the University and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation. Jones and Rogers will be honored at a private luncheon in the Rotunda and will spend several days teaching and meeting with students. They will make public talks during the afternoon April 13.

Jones will speak at 4 p.m. in the law school's Caplin Auditorium. Rogers will give a presentation about his work at 4 p.m. at the Culbreth Theater. An exhibit of Rogers' work will be on display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays April 12-30 in Campbell Hall Salon A.

A Norfolk native, Jones earned a B.A. in political science from Howard University, then served in the Peace Corps for two years before entering the U.Va. law school in 1967. After graduation she declined a lucrative offer from a private firm and went to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF). She has remained there since, with the exception of two years as a special assistant to the Secretary of Transportation in the Ford Administration.

Her first assignments with the LDF often involved litigating on behalf of black death penalty defendants throughout the South. In 1972 -- just two years out of law school -- she was counsel of record in Furman v. Georgia, the landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down death penalty statutes in 37 states.

In her stint in the Ford Administration from 1975 to 1977, Jones took the lead in opening Coast Guard service to women. After returning to the LDF she became its first official legislative advocate. In 1993, she was appointed the LDF's fourth director-counsel, following in the footsteps of founder Thurgood Marshall and other noted civil rights leaders. She is the first woman to lead the organization.

"Ms. Jones' record of public service speaks volumes about her character, principles, and commitment to justice. Throughout her distinguished legal career, she has made positive social change her preeminent objective," said Robert Scott, dean of the School of Law. "There is simply no one who is a better example of a lifetime commitment to public service."

Now heading the oldest civil rights law group in the country, with a staff of more than 25 attorneys and offices in Washington, Los Angeles and New York, Jones has continued the organization's strength in litigation while putting a priority on shaping public policy through legislation -- specifically targeting street violence, hate crimes, equal educational opportunities, access to health care and environmental discrimination.

She has received several other honors, including the Gertrude E. Rush Award of the National Bar Association and the George W. Collins Award of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. In 1989, she became the first African American to be elected to the American Bar Association's Board of Governors. She received the U.Va. Women's Center 1998 Distinguished Alumna Award.

Rogers, hailed as one of the world's most original architects, was born in Florence, Italy, and was educated at the Architectural Association School in London and Yale University. Known for his lavish, hi-tech designs, he worked with Italian architect Renzo Piano to create the famous Pompidou Center art museum and cultural complex in the historic heart of Paris in the 1970s. Its vibrant plaza and innovative design, with exterior tubes and pipes evoking the modern industrial landscape, attracts streams of Parisians and tourists alike.

Rejecting architecture's classical past, Rogers has playfully embraced technology but stresses that it should attempt to solve society's problems. He and his firm, Richard Rogers Partnership, emphasize creating public spaces and enlivening cities. Among his other well-known buildings are the redevelopment of the Lloyd's of London headquarters and two recently completed court facilities, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the Law Courts in Bordeaux.

He received the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal for Architecture in 1985 and was made a French Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 1986. He was knighted in Britain in 1991.

"Lord Rogers is one of the most inspiring architects of our age," said William McDonough, dean of the School of Architecture. "His work, while representing a dramatic cultural and technical avant-garde, is moving the design agenda from a 'timeful mindlessness' toward a 'timeless mindfulness' which incorporates a deep and sustaining celebration of the human and natural world."

Rogers has won countless international competitions and design awards including the Buenos Aires Architecture Biennial International Grand Award for best work in world architecture. His work has been exhibited around the world.

Rogers was hired to design England's $1 billion-plus, government-sponsored Millennium Dome in 1996. The Greenwich dome will be the world's largest continual membrane structure, a giant tent-like dome more than 1,000 feet in diameter, supported by slender exterior columns and cables and covered with taut, white fiberglass panels. It's nearly a mile in circumference and encloses 20 acres, but the entire structure weighs less than the air it contains. It can accommodate 35,000 people at a time, who will visit its pavilions as part of Britain's celebration of the new millennium.

Long an advocate of responsible stewardship of the Thames riverbanks, Rogers and colleagues have had to resurrect the contaminated site of a former gasworks to build the dome. It is to be opened at a ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II on Dec. 31.

Contact: Bob Brickhouse, (804) 924-6856.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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