Who Is Doug Jones?
Born in Fairfield, Alabama, in 1954, Doug Jones attended school and began his legal career in his home state, rising to the post of U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in 1997. Around that time, he took over as lead prosecutor for cases involving two suspects from the deadly 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963, winning convictions of both men. In 2017, Jones was catapulted into the national spotlight upon campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Given little chance to win in deep-red Alabama, Jones was helped by accusations of improper behavior against his opponent, Roy Moore, and pulled off the upset victory in a special election held on December 12, 2017.
Surprise Senate Win
On December 12, 2017, Alabama Democrat Doug Jones edged Republican Roy Moore, a former chief justice of the state's supreme court, in a special election for the vacant U.S. Senate seat. Garnering just under 50 percent of the vote, to about 48.4 percent for Moore, Jones became the first Alabama Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in 25 years, a victory that shaved the already slim Republican majority in the chamber to 51-49.
In an emotional victory speech, Jones said, "I am truly, truly overwhelmed. But, you know, folks, and you have all heard me say this at one point or another in this campaign. I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than to divide us. We have shown not just around the state of Alabama but we have shown the country the way that we can be unified."
For his part, Moore refused to concede, telling supporters to "wait on God and let this process play out." On December 27, he filed an election complaint in which he alleged that voter fraud may have occurred and called for a delay in the certification of the results. However, an Alabama circuit judge rejected that complaint, and Jones's election victory was certified the following day.
2017 Senate Campaign Race
Jones's opportunity at history came when former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed as the U.S. attorney general in February 2017. State Attorney General Luther Strange was appointed to the vacant Senate seat on an interim basis.
Quietly launching his bid in May 2017, Jones voiced his support of Obamacare and abortion rights, views that were unpopular in deep-red Alabama. Additionally, he favored strengthening border security and proclaimed himself a "Second Amendment guy," though he also advocated for stronger background checks.
The race initially drew attention for the theater surrounding the Republican primary between Strange, backed by President Donald Trump and the Republican establishment, and Moore, a favorite of Steve Bannon and the alt-right movement. Moore easily defeated Strange in the primary, and was considered a strong favorite for the December election despite troubling comments about Muslims and gays.
However, the race took a turn in November, when the Washington Post broke the first of several reports about Moore's alleged romantic interest in teenage girls while in his 30s. Prominent Washington insiders turned their back on Moore, and the developments sparked a national dialogue about whether party politics transcended issues of morality.
Ultimately, depsite Trump's support of Moore in the final weeks of the race, the allegations proved too damaging to halt Jones's surge from underdog to victor.
16th Street Baptist Church Prosecution
Prior to his Senate run, Doug Jones was best known for efforts to indict two members of the Ku Klux Klan for the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.
The federal case had been closed after the 1977 trial and conviction of Klansman Robert Chambliss, but was reopened just before Jones took office in 1997 as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Jones brought charges against two suspects, Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, and as specially appointed state prosecutor he won a murder conviction against Blanton in 2001. Jones left office shortly afterward, but was reappointed special prosecutor and won the conviction against Cherry in 2002.
Early Years and Career
Gordon Douglas Jones was born on May 4, 1954, in Fairfield, Alabama, the son of a U.S. Steel worker and a stay-at-home mom. Coming of age when civil rights progress was leading to the desegregation of Southern schools, he became known for reaching out to black students at Fairfield High, earning recognition from the Kiwanis Club as its 1972 Youth of the Year.
Jones went on to attend the University of Alabama and then Cumberland Law School, where he cut classes in order to watch the 1977 trial proceedings of Chambliss. After earning his J.D. in 1979, he briefly worked for Alabama Senator Howell Heflin, before a four-year tenure as an assistant U.S. attorney in Birmingham.
Jones worked in private practice before and after his time as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, which spanned from 1997 to 2001, eventually co-founding the firm Jones & Hawley.
Jones's 2017 election day victory remarkably coincided with the 25th anniversary of his marriage to wife Louise, whom he often referred to as his campaign partner. They have three children, Courtney, Carson and Christopher, and two grandchildren.
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