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Lisa Perez Jackson is a chemical engineer who in 2008 became the first African American to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
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She was also a vocal critic of the Bush Administration's approach to environmental issues, labeling the EPA, the "Emissions Permission Agency."
But not all her work at the agency was lauded by environmentalists. She had her critics, who complained she was too lenient with big business and developers, particularly when it came to establishing tougher groundwater regulations and overseeing hazardous waste cleanups.
Jackson proved so adept at navigating political minefields that in 2008 her boss, Governor Jon Corzine, named her his chief of staff. But her time in the position was short-lived; soon after taking on the position, Jackson, who had supported Senator Hilary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, was nominated by President-elect Barack Obama to head up the EPA.
It wasn't long before she drew the ire of the political right. In December 2009, the EPA declared greenhouse gases to be a danger to public health, which could set the stage for tougher regulations. "The difference between this administration and the last is that we don't believe we have an option to do nothing," Jackson explained to Newsweek in 2010.
Jackson, an avid cook who's famous for her gumbo, is still a proud New Orleans native. When Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005, she saw the devastation on the area and the lives it changed, firsthand. After the hurricane, Jackson's mother decided to pack up and leave New Orleans for good. "The Katrina experience made me realize that you can't fight; you have to accept what God has in store for you," she said. "I truly believe that God gave us this world and we have a moral obligation not to turn around and give the next generations a trash heap that they can't live off of."
Jackson is married to Kenny Jackson with whom she has two sons. The family resides in Washington, D.C.
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Explore our collection of pioneering African Americans in government and politics, including Alexander Lucius Twilight, the first African American to win election to public office; Hiram R. Revels, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate; Carol Moseley Braun, the first black woman elected to the Senate; and Amelia Boynton, who became both the first African-American woman and the first female Democratic candidate to run for a seat in Congress from Alabama in 1964. View full biographies, photos, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
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