Meeting an Iconic Figure in the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Jesse Jackson


One night in Houston, Texas, as I strolled through the lobby of the busy Hyatt Regency, I spotted Reverend Jesse Jackson. I knew immediately I had to meet him. Jackson is an iconic figure famous for being an American civil rights leader, Baptist minister, and politician. His bids for the U.S. presidency (in the Democratic Party’s nomination races in 1983–84 and 1987–88) were the most successful by an African American until Barack Obama captured the Democratic presidential nomination.

His place in history is assured as he was at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968 when King was assassinated. At the exact moment of the shooting, he was one floor below. A day later he appeared on NBC’s Today Show wearing a blood stained shirt with Dr. King’s blood on it. Here is a famous photo of Jackson on the balcony of the motel with Dr. King the day before the shooting.

Rev. Jackson eventually founded and organized the Rainbow Coalition, which later merged, in 1996, with Operation PUSH. His involvement with Dr. King, his charismatic speeches at Democratic conventions, and his lifelong advocacy for civil rights made him someone I was excited to meet. As far as I could tell, Rev. Jackson was sitting alone on one side of the hotel lobby. I quickly walked over to where he was sitting and introduced myself. He was personable and friendly. I immediately felt at ease and soon began a conversation as I asked what brought him to Houston. It was some speaking engagement that I forget the name of. I also told him I was in town attending the National Tour Association (NTA) convention.

Soon after, I asked if we could take a photo together. He was accommodating. In fact, it was a friend and/or staff of Rev. Jackson that took the photo. After the photo, I think a few others in the lobby realized that the Rev. Jesse Jackson was there. I also knew he was on his way somewhere, so I didn’t take any more of his time. It was great meeting this famous icon in American civil rights and politics.

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