Jesse Jackson Jr. Biography

U.S. Representative, Journalist (1965–)
Jesse Jackson Jr. is the son of the famous Reverend Jesse Jackson. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2012.


Born in Greenville, South Carolina on March 11, 1965, Jesse Jackson Jr. served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2012, representing the state of Illinois. He grew up in the Civil Rights Movement, in the shadow of his father, the famous Reverend Jesse Jackson. He studied law and theology before serving as a National Rainbow Coalition field director. Jackson's work as a House representative included campaigning for the addition of a third airport in Chicago. He resigned in late November 2012, citing ongoing health issues.

Younger Years

Jesse Louis Jackson Jr., the son of the famous Reverend Jesse Jackson, was born on March 11, 1965, in Greenville, South Carolina. As the son of a civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson Jr. became politically active at a young age; he gave one of his first speeches when he was only 5 years old.

Active in the Civil Rights Movement, Jackson worked with Martin Luther King Jr. at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s, and then established his own civil rights organization, Operation PUSH, in 1971. He met many famous people through his father, such as baseball great Jackie Robinson; boxing legend Muhammad Ali; and singer Michael Jackson. With his activist father often away, however, Jackson developed a close relationship to his mother, Jacqueline.

The Jackson children were raised on Chicago's South Side, and young Jesse attended public school there for a number of years. An intelligent but hyperactive child, he was transferred to the LeMans Military Academy in South Bend, Indiana, so that he could develop greater personal discipline. It was a transformation that took some time. "I received numerous demerits and became a regular visitor to the principal's office—often to be paddled for conduct unbecoming a cadet," he later wrote of his early experience at the school.

Jackson eventually transferred to the prestigious St. Albans School for boys in Washington, D.C., but found more success on the school's football team than as a student. Jackson graduated from St. Albans in 1984 and his father, who was running for president at the time, gave the commencement speech at his graduation ceremony. Following his graduation from high school, Jackson enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Early Political Activism

Jackson excelled on many levels at the university—he played quarterback on the school's football team, served as student body president, and started a student group to protest apartheid in South Africa. Along with his father and brother, Jonathan Jackson, Jesse Jackson Jr. was arrested in 1985 during a demonstration outside of the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.

After graduating with a degree in business management in 1987, Jackson focused on gaining a spiritual education; in 1990, he earned a master's degree in theology from the Chicago Theological Seminary. Jackson went on to study law at the University of Illinois College of Law, completing his degree in 1993.

Following in his father's footsteps, Jackson went on to become a strong advocate for social change. He joined the staff of the National Rainbow Coalition, working as the organization's national field director. His work with the organization included the promotion of voter registration and education programs.

Political Career

Jackson won his first elected post in 1994, becoming a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Illinois. He first took office in 1995, and won re-election to the seat four times thereafter, most recently in 2012 (Jackson would only serve four terms, from 1995 to 2012, however; he resigned from the House in late November 2012). During his tenure in Congress, Jackson sat on a number of important House committees, including the House Appropriations Committee. Additionally, he was a leading Democrat in the House for several years. Among his various legislative projects, Jackson campaigned vigorously for the addition of a third airport in the Chicago area. In 2008, he worked diligently on Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

In addition to his legislative work, Jackson has written several books. He and his father co-authored two books: Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice, and the Death Penalty (1996) and It's About The Money! (2000).


Despite his political successes, Jackson would soon see his reputation become somewhat marred. First, he was mentioned in connection to the bribery and conspiracy case against former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested on corruption charges in 2008. Jackson, or someone from his organization, allegedly offered campaign funds in an effort to secure an appointment to the U.S. Senate. Jackson has denied any involvement and has not been charged in connection with the case. The investigation, however, uncovered Jackson's affair with a restaurant hostess and model, which had a devastating impact on his family (Jackson and his wife, Sandi, have been married since 1991 and have two children, daughter Jessica and son Jesse III). Jackson admitted his infidelity to his wife, and the couple underwent counseling.

While he and his wife had begun to work on repairing their relationship, many of Jackson's constituents proved to be less ready to accept the congressman's transgressions; the congressman received heavy criticism from both the public and the press, over both his alleged connection to the Blagojevich case and his extramartial affair.

Resignation from Congress

Just two weeks after winning the 2012 election and earning another four-year term in the House, in late November 2012, Jackson announced his resignation from his House seat; in a statement following his resignation announcement, he cited ongoing health issues, including bipolar disorder, and went on to acknowledge the ongoing federal investigation into his possible misuse of campaign funds. Jackson had reportedly begun to undergo treatment for bipolar disorder at a facility in Minnesota prior to his resignation. Some media outlets speculated that Jackson had also received treatment for alcoholism.

In February 2013, Jackson was brought up on federal charges alleging that he misused $750,000 of his campaign funds. He and his wife Sandi pleaded guilty in the case. According to NBC News, Jackson released a statement through his lawyers. "I want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right."

Prison Sentence

For the illicit use of campaign money, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Sandi Jackson were sentenced to prison on August 14, 2013. Jesse Jackson, Jr. was sentenced to 30 months in prison for the crime while his wife faces a one year sentence. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was specific in delivering her sentence of exactly one year as opposed to one year and one day to Sandi Jackson, ensuring that she served her entire sentence instead of a reduced sentence for good behavior. In addition to serving their sentences—which will be staggered, Jesse Jackson, Jr. going first—they are both required to undergo supervised release after their time in prison is complete. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is scheduled to report to authorities in November 2013 to begin his serving his sentence.

Jackson resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Sandi, and two children.

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