Don Washington of Jones Walker, Reflects on Career and Dedication to Service

Jan Swift and Don Washington at taping of Discover Lafayette

Don Washington, a partner in the Jones Walker law firm, joined Discover Lafayette to share his life and career journey as well as his dedication to public service.

Based out of Jones Walker’s Lafayette office, Don Washington specializes in corporate compliance and white-collar defense.

A native of Sulphur Springs, Texas, Don has led an exemplary career in the military, the oil and gas industry as an engineer and attorney for Conoco, as a litigator at Jones Walker, in public service, and as a volunteer in our community.

Growing up in the small town of Sulphur Springs that Don refers to as “a Norman Rockwell” type of town, he was a member of the Future Farmers of America and even had the opportunity to judge livestock shows. Math and science were his favorite topics and he was encouraged by his family to reach for the stars. He ended up at West Point studying and graduating in Aerospace Engineering after a random comment by a high school classmate who said he was going to apply to the Naval Academy. Don recalled, “I just announced very proudly that I was going to apply to West Point! I did and I got in. Those were the days as they say.”

“I believe very strongly in our country. I believe in the Constitution. I believe that our nation is exceptional. I’ve been to places around the planet where our nation is looked upon with high regard. For example, I took a trip to Nepal as U. S. Attorney to speak on our American criminal justice system and compare it with Nepal’s, a nation of antiquity where Buddha walked 5000 plus years ago. Here we are, a 200-year old republic, and we talked to them about things they wanted to know about us because of our success. They wanted to expand their horizons.”

After West Point, Don joined the Army and served as an Air Defense Artillery Officer where he trained in tactical strategies, how to shoot down aircraft, and control air space over battlegrounds. Working with gun systems and missiles, Don served during the time of the Cold War when the Soviet Union was a real threat as was China. “The Soviet military had 50,000 tanks at the Iron Curtain and the U. S. had 5000….the U. S. always had superior equipment.”

After military service, Don worked with Conoco in Houston. Wanting to further his education, he attended South Texan College of Law at night, all while traveling on behalf of Conoco to sell its natural gas. South Texan College of Law is recognized by many as the “Harvard of the South” and was set up for high achievers who work as they obtain their Juris doctorate. He moved to Lafayette while working for Conoco and since then has called Lafayette home.

Don was appointed to serve as U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana by George W. Bush one week after 9/11. Then U. S. Attorney General John Ashcroft made sure that all appointees understood the gravity of the situation and that terrorists did exist in the U. S. Don spent two years rooting out plotters of terrorist activities, including those involving Wadih El Hage, a graduate of USL who was aligned with Osama bin Laden and who plotted the bombing of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He served until 2010. He also led federal investigations and trial teams to prosecute cases involving criminal and civil violations of federal law.  

Don recently returned to Jones Walker after serving as the director of the United States Marshals Service. He was appointed by President Donald Trump and served from 2019 to 2021. During his service, he oversaw nearly 5,500 US marshals, deputy marshalls, criminal investigators, detention enforcement officers, and administrative staff. His time of service included having to navigate the COVID pandemic as well as civil unrest that erupted after George Floyd was killed in May of 2020.

Don Washington is a great believer in the U. S. Constitution and a prosecutor at heart. Yet, he believes that everyone deserves the best criminal defense possible. He served on the Innocence Project which assists people who have been wrongly convicted. “I strongly believe in the presumption of innocence. A prosecutor must prove his case because what’s at stake is our most valuable possession while we’re alive, and that is our liberty. There is no life without liberty.”

The US Marshals Service is our nation’s oldest law enforcement agency and has served since 1789 when the offices of U. S. Attorney and District Judge were created. There were 13 districts just as there were 13 colonies. As holds true today, the officeholders were always presidentially appointed.

The U. S. Marshal’s primary responsibility is to protect Article 3 of the U. S. Constitution, i.e., to protect the judiciary. Marshals work to ensure that judges may work without intimidation and to allow justice to be dispensed with due process. U. S. Marshals also arrest fugitives on behalf of both state and federal courts, which adds up to about 100,000 per year (300 to 350 per day). They maintain the Witness Security System which has protected about 19,999 witnesses so far. Marshals also maintain custody of pretrial detainees, which include the likes of the late Jeffrey Epstein and El Chapo. During the pandemic, the U. S. Marshals Service set up quarantine sites in the U. S. for citizens returning from Wuhan, as well as assisted during Operation Warp Speed in protecting the vaccines during the development period.

“I encourage everyone to remember the story of red clay. Before we had asphalt, we had dirt roads, some made of clay which gets slippery when it rains. Life is like traveling down a road of red clay. It’s your job as a person, as an American, to figure out how to navigate that. As you grow up, you should dedicate yourself to do what’s right, not only for yourself but for your community and your country.”

Discover Lafayette thanks Don Washington for his years of service to our community and nation, and we welcome him back to Lafayette! We also thank Jones Walker, LLP for their support of our mission to shine the light on the people who make our community great.