Remembering Scipio Africanus Jones with Mosaic Templars Cultural Center AND Friday, Eldredge & Clark
February 27 - March 5, 2023
The Art of JUSTICE
By Bill Waddell
On February 16, Friday, Eldredge & Clark joined the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center as they hosted he opening of the new exhibit “The Life and Legacy of Scipio A. Jones.” The exhibit brings light to the great efforts Jones made in the legal world as a prominent African American attorney right here in Pulaski County.
The event was inspired by an elegant watercolor painting, by the artist Ed Wade, titled “Scipio and the Twelve” which long time Friday Firm Partner William “Bill” Waddell Jr. and his wife Patty Waddell had commissioned. The painting depicts Scipio A. Jones and the twelve men he defended during the Elaine Massacre of 1919.
Art often speaks louder than words. That is particularly true when the image captures the whole of a concept that it would take pages to explain. And the colors and lighting of a painting add dimensions that are virtually impossible to describe. Art speaks with a strong voice, and sometimes it is the only voice to which certain persons will listen.
Milwaukee artist Edward C. Wade, Jr. has spoken up about justice in his new work, “Scipio & The Twelve.” Depicting in the foreground the compassionate but strong face of Scipio Africanus Jones, who was recently inducted into the inaugural class of the Arkansas Bar Hall of Fame, the painting also includes the twelve men condemned to die following sham trials related to the Elaine Massacre of 1919. Mr. Wade, who is also a pastor, described his approach to the painting this way:
I was at the church one day and while walking towards my office I could see my car through the church door window and in the rear bumper reflected the brick wall of the church. I immediately thought that I could stand them in front of a brick wall with a larger portrait of Scipio right beside them because these were the ones he represented and freed from a death sentence. Scipio Jones worked tirelessly to overturn those convictions and his efforts resulted in their release. The twelve are nondescript in a way, but their vulnerable lives are connected to the legacy of Mr. Jones just as our lives are linked to justice and the rule of law.
Mr. Wade also took his message to a broader audience:
I then began to think that all focus on the twelve was not enough to give a vision of the scope of the tragic results of hatred and bigotry so I thought “I can write graffiti behind them.” I thought that it would show respect to other victims of massacres to let the graffiti be the names and dates of some of those other incidents, because as satisfying as Scipio’s victory was, many were not so lucky, and they suffered and died and needed to be honored as well.
I wanted to bring honor to them but not take away from what Scipio had done so the names and dates are just scribbles on a wall until you take the time to read them and hopefully being reminded of those many other tragedies will help you feel good that because of the work Scipio did…there was a victory to celebrate.
In a single image, Mr. Wade speaks of the broader issue of racial strife and causes the viewer to consider not only Scipio Jones’s legacy in the law but to ponder how his largely unheralded work is part of the fabric of society. Mr. Wade’s “Scipio & The Twelve” is the Art of Justice.
William. “Bill” Waddell Jr., a long-time partner with Friday Eldredge and Clark law firm in Little Rock, is using his passion for diversity in the legal industry to make a difference. He has commissioned the vibrant watercolor painting by artist Ed Wade, and has written this article, “The Art of Justice,” to help raise funds for underrepresented law students in Arkansas and other racial justice initiatives.
Mr. Wade has generously given exclusive rights to prints of “Scipio & The Twelve” to the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation for a one-year period to help AATJF raise funds for the Black Law Students Association at Bowen School of Law in Little Rock and the University of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville. For information about the prints, e-mail Jordan Bates-Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 501.492.7174.