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Adams Morgan Activist Edward G. Jackson, Sr. Honored for Years of Service

By Anthony L. Harvey

Accompanying images can be viewed in the January 2008 issue PDF at page 5

In the large and spacious ballroom and conference center of the Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church on 16th Street in Crestwood, north of Washington’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, over 100 friends, family, and colleagues — all admirers of Edward G. Jackson, Sr. and his regally-attired wife of 56 years, Margaret –- gathered in the glow of three enormous, descending cones of chandelier light to honor Jackson at a fund-raiser sponsored by the Adams Morgan Youth Leadership Academy (AMYLA). Both the current and immediately preceding Ward 1 Council Members — Jim Graham and Frank Smith — were present, with Graham displaying and reading a recently enacted resolution of the DC City Council proclaiming October 11, 2011 Edward G. Jackson, Sr., Day.

The resolution summarized several of Jackson’s exemplary accomplishments, both in his public service for the Federal and District governments and in his tireless pro-bono efforts for the Adams Morgan community. Beginning with his presidency of the Morgan School PTA and that of building the coalition that created, constructed, and placed into operation the Marie H. Reed Learning Center, Graham noted Jackson’s 20 years of service as an Adams Morgan ANC commissioner, his presidency of the Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association (RCNA), and his being honored with the Dave Clark Award for Outstanding Service when Jackson retired after 42 years with the District’s labor and health and human services departments.

Former Councilmember Frank Smith, now director of the African-American Civil War Museum, characterized Jackson as a wonderful example of what a single kind, patient, loving, and caring man could do to make an urban community great. Smith focused in his remarks on an early effort of Jackson and others to work with 25 small householders on an entire block of one street, said to be Seaton Street just south of Florida Avenue, after a developer had literally bought the block, issued eviction notices, and announced plans to demolish these 25 houses and build a hotel. This effective effort — the householders were able to buy their homes — is emblematic, Smith averred, of Ed Jackson’s repeated accomplishments.

Long-time city planning, historic preservationist, and Kalorama Citizens Association (KCA) activist Ann Hughes Hargrove recounted Jackson’s collaborative efforts with others in the community to preserve open green space adjacent to Rock Creek and create the Walter Pierce Park, and to successfully block efforts to devastate residential areas of Adams Morgan with a freeway project as well as an urban renewal proposal to demolish the commercial and residential structures on 18th Street, replacing them with tall buildings on either side of the street.

Peter Lyden, who served with Jackson in community organizations and followed him into leadership positions on the ANC and with the RCNA, praised Jackson’s vision, foresight, and leadership in the successful effort to create the Reed-Cooke Zoning Overlay to protect the low and medium-density residential and low-density neighborhood-serving commercial character envisioned for what had been a mixed industrial/residentially zoned area.

An informal video of Jackson’s own recollections was shown to attendees, several of whom — family members, friends, pastors, and former colleagues — offered their own brief reminiscences. The event, billed as an “Evening of Honors,” concluded with a fund-raising appeal from AMYLA, the event’s sponsor. Ed and Margaret Jackson both responded with envelope offerings which they presented to AMYLA President Nigel Okunubi, who had previously presented Jackson with a plaque inscribed with his honors and achievements.

Background

In an earlier interview with this reporter, Jackson reflected on his childhood, early adult experiences, and his 56 years of professional, family, and community life in Washington. Born in Sumter, South Carolina in April of 1929 as the last of eight children in a family headed by a nurturing father — a pastor and educator who became a produce dealer in the depths of the Depression in order to support his family — Jackson graduated from Sumter’s Lincoln High School in 1948, and then in 1953 from Maryland State College on the Eastern Shore in Princess Anne County, where he met his future wife Margaret in the college library. After being led by his family into a deep experience with a religious faith, which became life-long, Jackson recounted with a chuckle learning “discipline” through two years of U.S. Army service.

Jackson began his professional career in 1955 with the U.S. Department of Labor handling Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage rate determinations; he subsequently transferred to what became DC’s health and human services department where he was a pioneer in the development of family homeless shelters, medical social workers, and a departmental policy of having staff and services available when needed by program clients rather than during a rigid, nine-to-five, Monday through Friday schedule.

As the father of young children in the DC public schools, his involvement in community educational concerns began with his being drafted — in his absence — to be president of the Thomas Morgan Elementary School PTA. This led to his leadership role in the creation of the cutting-edge concept of co-locating education, recreational, health, daycare, and adult education services in a community center setting, one that was organized and administered by the community itself. In what was almost a deathbed request from Bishop Marie H. Reed, Jackson committed himself to seeing this pioneering, prescient project to completion; it exists to this day, albeit under DC Public Schools and other District agencies’ jurisdictions.

Jackson reflected on being equally active in other community organizations, especially the Adams Morgan Organization known as AMO and the Euclid Street/Ontario Road organization known as RAM, which was a forerunner to the Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association — all of which, together with the community’s Herculean efforts to formulate and secure adoption of the Reed-Cooke Zoning Overlay, necessitated Jackson’s taking annual leave from time-to-time to work on myriad “extra-curricular” efforts.

As we spoke, Jackson commented on his recollections of the efforts of others — especially Ann Hargrove, Grace Malikov, Peter Lyden, and Drew Wexler — in working to establish the Overlay district which successfully set the template for future redevelopment in Reed-Cooke, and was instrumental in preventing efforts to transform Champlain Street into an entertainment area. Jackson spoke fondly of working with the Church of the Savior’s Gordon Crosby and Jim Knight on health care and housing issues and of his special pleasure at the success of Jubilee Housing — and of the strength provided his life and work through his active involvement with Metropolitan and King Emmanuel Baptist churches.

Tree plantings, roses, annual Reed-Cooke clean-ups, and the award from Lady Bird Johnson at a White House reception completed Jackson’s round-up of highlights in his career up to now — one that is yet to be completed. And in all this, Jackson noted the constant support and special partnering of his wife Margaret — who was honored in her own retirement after 35 years as a special education teacher in the DC public schools — and that of his entire family in all of these activities.