Jesse Jackson, Jr.

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Jesse Jackson, Jr.

b. March 11, 1965

U.S. Congress, 1st District (1995-2012)

If there was ever a modern Icarus, Jesse Jackson, Jr. would be him. Provided with the support of his father's national political power, Triple-J, as his supporters once called him, became a Congressman, helped lift a new group of South Suburban politicians into office (called The Jackson Five) and was regularly considered a potential mayoral candidate. But all that came undone after he and his wife signed plea agreements for fraud and conspiracy charges related to using about $750,000 in campaign money for over 3,000 personal purchases that included many luxury items.

Even more ironic is that Jackson first came to office following his predecessor, Mel Reyolds', conviction on federal charges as well.

Jackson, Jr. got his start in politics working with his dad, Rev. Jesse Jackson, at Rainbow-PUSH and on his dad's 1988 second run for president. Learning to mimic his father's signature speaking style at an early age, Jackson, Jr. seemed destined for some political position.

The announcement of the 1995 special election to replace Reynolds was like breaking a dam, holding back decades of pent-up South Side political ambition. Almost every major African American political leader, including later Illinois Senate President Emil Jones ran for the slot, but Jackson, Jr.'s name recognition and his father's fundraising abilities overwhelmed the opposition, bringing Jackson, Jr. to victory.

As Congressman Jackson, Jr. did much campaign yeoman's work as he could for his fellow Democrats, working to pull Black votes for white incumbents, which ingratiated him with Congressional leadership and building a national fundraising network for him.

By the early 2000's, Jackson, Jr. was putting fundraising network to work as he helped fund a group of state legislative and aldermanic candidates later called The Jackson Five, which included his wife Sandi Jackson when she was elected 7th Ward Alderman in 2007. By this point, Jackson, Jr. was a contender for most power African American politician in Chicago, and seriously considered running for Mayor against Richard M. Daley in 2007, reportedly going so far as to reserve a campaign headquarters space in South Shore, but he ultimately declined.

In 2008, a slow drop of bad events began to build up. First in 2008 he was named "Senate Candidate 5" in the Gov. Rod Blagojevich indictment that ultimately sent Blagojevich to jail. According to wiretaps, Jackson, Jr. offered to raise $500,000 for Blagojevich in return for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president.

Then, following whispers of illness for Jackson, Jr., where he failed to appear in Congress for prolonged periods, and his wife Sandi missing numerous Council meetings, Jackson, Jr. announced he had bi-polar disorder, resulting from his 2004 bariatric surgery.

Finally, in 2012, the U.S. Attorney filed an indictment charging Jackson, Jr. and his wife with using about $750,000 in campaign funds for personal purchases, and hiding them. Jackson, Jr. and Sandi pled guilty in January 2013. He went to federal prison soon after.


  • 1987, North Carolina A&T State University, B.S., Business Management
  • 1990, Chicago Theological Seminary, M.A., Theology
  • 1993, University of Illinois College of Law, J.D.

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