Capitol on the Plains featuring Senator Doug Jones

Posted on May 2, 2019 by Jack Wilbanks

Sean Griffin
Content Creator, SGA

United States Senator Doug Jones visited Auburn to deliver a presentation on the 16thStreet Baptist Church Bombing case on April 24. Prior to serving as Senator, Jones was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in 1997 by President Bill Clinton. As U.S. Attorney, Jones prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members for their roles in the 1963 16thStreet Baptist Church Bombing. 

Making a connection with Auburn students, Jones recalled his days as a law student at Samford University. He claims his first connection to the bombing case was the trial of suspect Robert Chambliss; Jones remembers skipping classes to attend the trial and claims it reaffirmed his commitment to becoming a lawyer. 

Broun Hall’s auditorium was standing-room only at the event, with members of Lee County community along with members of the university staff and student body in attendance. SGA Mary Margaret Turton introduced Senator Jones and engaged with him in a post-presentation dialogue. When asked by Turton the best advice the politician had for Auburn students, Jones recommended engaging with people “different from you” and conducting “dialogues, not monologues.”

Perhaps Jones’ most poignant trait was his ability to connect with the audience by illuminating his authenticity. Students at the event laughed as Jones expressed his grievances over his inability to locate his remote’s laser pointer button, and when one student remarked that he had two questions for Jones, the senator jokingly replied “nope, you only get one.”

The event’s question and answer session offered students in attendance an opportunity to engage with the senator. While the first question concerned Jones’ 2020 Senate race and his reelection efforts, the second question was concerning the declining minority representation rates on college campuses. Jones expressed that students interacting on individual levels and displaying a spirit of inclusivity is the surest way to inhibit this trend.

Further questions included salient topics such as voter suppression and marijuana legislation as it relates to criminal justice reform. Jones acknowledged voter suppression as a real issue and encouraged efforts to extend democracy, and Jones similarly acknowledged criminal justice reform’s prioritization while citing his support of the recently-enacted First Step Act. 

Auburn’s SGA enabled students, faculty, and members of the community to learn about a turning point in American civil rights by allowing one of our current U.S. senators to deliver an in-depth presentation on the case. The experience also allowed students the ability to engage with Senator Jones and practice civic engagement, a practice in the ‘dialogue-making’ Jones stresses is so vital to our growth as the future of the country.