Harry Leroy Jones was born in 1895 in Summitville, Indiana. He took a B.A. degree from Indiana University in 1916 and immediately enrolled in law school at Northwestern University, but the following year his law study was interrupted when he was commissioned in the U.S. Army. He served first with the cavalry in Europe and then worked for the Judge Advocate General Department, leasing property for use of the Army and adjusting claims brought by French and German civilians. After resigning his commission in 1921, he returned to Northwestern and finished his law degree in 1922. While at Northwestern he met and married a fellow law student, Gladys Moon, and they settled in Chicago where he practiced law and lectured at his alma mater. In 1926 they moved to Washington, D.C., where Jones worked as a special attorney in the Bureau of Internal Revenue for three years. He went back into private practice but returned to government work in 1934, taking the post of Chief Attorney in the Justice Department's Alien Property Bureau.
Before World War II Jones was "responsible for all [the Bureau's] legal work, including litigation, claims, direction of administrative matters requiring legal handling and of the formulation of policy and legislation which involved contact with the other two Departments interested in Alien Property -- the Treasury and State Departments." (HLJ to Assistant Attorney General Shea, 30 October 1939, General Interoffice Memoranda, 1933-39, Box 22.) Most of the litigation stemmed from the Bureau's seizure of property during World War I under the guidelines set by the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA). In addition Jones was given special assignments on New Deal litigation, such as the gold clause cases.
In early 1942 after the U.S. had entered the war, there was controversy within the executive branch over the handling of alien property, and as a result the bureau in Justice was reorganized. In a speech delivered during the 1950's Jones described this shakeup:
As you will remember, enemy property, during World War I, was demanded and seized, under Section 7(c), pursuant to a determination by the President's delegate, the Alien Property Custodian, that it was owned or held for an enemy. "Enemies" were defined, in Section 2, largely to be persons, irrespective of nationality, resident within the territory of a nation with which we were at war. A German national, resident outside of Germany, was not an enemy unless he was proclaimed to be such by the President. Section 5, which gave the President certain powers over wartime transactions in foreign exchange, etc. . . . was, again, amended in 1940 by enlarging the powers of currency control, which was delegated to the Treasury Department.
In March, 1942, the President established a new, World War II Alien Property Custodian, with a delegation of powers under Section 5(b), which he shared with the Secretary of the Treasury. (Undated speech delivered at "Fourth Summer Conference -- Cornell University Law School," in Speeches by HLJ, Box 51.)
Amid dissension and uncertainty the two Departments proceeded to seize enemy property and funds after the war began.
Jones was appointed first assistant and later chief of the Alien Property Litigation Section, supervising all litigation arising from the TWEA as administered by the Alien Property Custodian and the Secretary of the Treasury. Before the war he had been at work on proposals to revise the TWEA, and in 1942 after Justice's conflict with Treasury, even greater effort was put into changing the law. As soon as the war ended many claims against the government's vesting of enemy property poured in, and Jones was made assistant to the director in charge of foreign operations, i.e. the staff of lawyers sent overseas to do research for the government in these cases. In 1948 Jones was appointed Chief Hearing Examiner for Title Claims, the post he held until he left the Justice Department in 1959. In a 1953 letter to J. D. Bond, President of the Federal Trial Examiners Conference, Jones described the Hearing Examiners' powers and limitations:
Our hearings are of claims under Sections 9(a), 32 and 34 of the Trading with the Enemy Act, as amended. Our Hearing Examiners are not qualified under the Administrative Procedure Act, though you will note from Section 502.13(d) that we are given the hearing powers set forth in Section 7(b) of the Administrative Procedure Act. Adversary hearings were established in 1942, but Hearing Examiners were first appointed in 1947. Claims are docketed solely upon the initiative of the Chief of the Claims Branch, who is the "defendant" in each case. Neither the Hearing Examiners nor the claimants have any control of the docketing of claims. (Personal Office Correspondence, 1952-53, Box 51.)
In this letter Jones goes on to explain the inadequacy of the rules governing these hearings. Judicial assistance in international litigation remained the subject of paramount concern to him through the fifties and sixties. Besides writing and speaking on the subject, he served on a number of national and international committees studying the matter. When he left the Justice Department in 1959 he became the Director of the Commission on International Rules of Judicial Procedure established by Congress in 1958 and based at Columbia University. From 1966 to 1968 he served as executive director of the World Association of Judges. After his retirement Jones remained active in organizations concerned with international law.
Gladys, a journalist, sculptor and gardener, and Harry, a painter as well as lawyer, bought one of the oldest houses in Georgetown, 1310 34th Street, when they moved to Washington in the twenties, and that home remains in the family. They had two children, Susan Gouge and Tenley Jones. Gladys Moon Jones died in 1981, and Harry Leroy Jones, in 1986.