The Tumultuous And Parallel Lives Of The Jesse Jacksons

Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. and his son Jesse Jackson, Jr. have been an active part of the Democratic party – and American political life – for more than half a century. But has their dynasty come to a close?

2. Jesse Jackson, Sr.

Born: 1941
Grew up: In South Carolina.
Schooling: A racially segregated high school. He became student class president.

Declan Haun/Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images
ID: 814595

3. Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Born: 1965
Grew Up: In South Shore on Chicago’s west side
Schooling: Le Mans Military Academy and St. Albans School in Washington D.C. He wrote that he struggled academically in school because of his ADHD, but did well in sports.

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ID: 835455

5. JJ Sr.

Undergrad: Went to the University of Illinois with a football scholarship. He said he faced racial discrimination at UofI, prompting a transfer to North Carolina A&T State University for a degree in sociology.
Post-graduate: Received a scholarship to the Chicago Theological Seminary. He left the seminary right before earning his master’s so that he could devote his life to the civil rights movement. He was ordained a minister in 1968, and eventually given his Master’s of Divinity. This means people can call him Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr.

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6. JJ Jr.

Undergrad: A&T with a degree in political science.
Post-graduate: Masters from Chicago Theological Seminary; did not become an ordained minister. This means people can’t call him Reverend Jesse Jackson Jr.
He then went to law school at the University of Illinois, convincing his wife, Sandi Jackson, to transfer from Georgetown to be with him. He never took the bar exam.

Michael Mauney/Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images
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8. JJ Sr.

He spent his formative years working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When King died, Jackson was considered by many to be his rightful successor to lead the civil rights movement.

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9. JJ Jr.

He spent most his younger years working for his dad. He became the director of the civil rights foundation JJ Sr. had started, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and the Reverend got him a position as part of the Democratic National Committee in 1988.

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11. JJ Sr.

In 1984, he ran for President of the United States, becoming only the second black person to run for office. Jackson won 18.2 percent of vote in the Democratic Primary, losing the nomination to Walter Mondale. He ran for president a second time in 1988 but failed to capture the nomination, though won 11 states.

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He spent 1992 from 2000 working at CNN, hosting his show “Both Sides with Jesse Jackson.” It was spoofed on Saturday Night Live, which wouldn’t be the first time Jackson had gotten involved with the program.

R.M. Lewis Jr. / NBCU Photo Bank / Getty Images
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13. JJ Jr.

In 1995, he ran for Congress, for the 2nd District seat in Illinois, ignoring his father’s advice to instead run for local office in Chicago. He won.

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Jackson was reelected to Congress several times.

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He waffled back and forth several times over whether he would run for mayor but ultimately decided not to pursue it. In 2008, he spoke at the Democratic National convention.

Mike Segar / Reuters
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Both Jackson’s were actively involved in the 2008 election.

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18. JJ Sr.

In 2001, it was revealed that he had had a child out of wedlock with a staff member at Rainbow/Push, and reports indicated that she may have been overly compensated for her work. JJ Sr. announced that he would be stepping back from the public eye “to revive my spirit and reconnect with my family.”

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19. JJ Jr.

In 2008, he was accused of involvement in the Blagojevich corruption scandal, allegedly offering to raise money for the former Illinois Governor so that he could be placed in President Obama’s empty Senate seat. This landed him a spot on the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington list of the “15 most corrupt members of Congress.”

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
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As part of the Blagojevich scandal, it was revealed that in 2010, JJ Jr. had an affair with a nightclub hostess who was flown to Chicago by a fundraiser of his. Jackson allegedly asked the fundraiser to help raise money for the senate seat.

That investigation is ongoing, and in 2012, it was reported that he was also being looked at by the FBI for possible campaign finance improprieties. He’d previously been investigated for not returning a donation received by fundraiser John Huang for his 1995 campaign. Huang was convicted of campaign finance fraud.

Tom Gianni / AP
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He was also very publicly in and out of treatment for bipolar disorder. During this time he was seen meeting with some ladies who were not his wife.

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Though he barely campaigned, JJ Jr. handily won reelection for Congress with over 60 percent of the vote. However, he resigned a few weeks later. Here is Congressman Bobby Rush holding Jackson’s resignation letter as Congressman Danny Davis stands by.

Nam Y. Huh / AP
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And in January, his wife Sandi Jackson left her position on Chicago City Council. In a letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, she said that she could not adequately represent her district “while dealing with very painful family health matters.”

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
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25. JJ Sr.

As of now, it’s unclear what the legacy of the Jackson family will be. JJ Sr. is still involved in activism. He’s helped negotiate with high-profile leaders of state around the world and was vocal around issues like the death of Trayvon Martin and Hurricane Katrina. He’s often called upon to speak at the memorials of high-profile members of the black community, many of whom he counts as friends.

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Since leaving office, his son has kept out of the public eye.

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And despite their mixed familial legacy, the elder Jackson will always have this appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1990.

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