Henry “Scoop” Jackson (1912 – 1983)

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Henry Jackson

Henry Martin Jackson

Henry Martin “Scoop” Jackson (May 31, 1912 – September 1, 1983) was a U.S. congressman and senator from the state of Washington from 1941 until his death. Jackson was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972 and 1976.

Jackson became a central figure on the national stage as a standard-bearer for Democratic hawks during the Vietnam era in the late 1960s and 1970s. His philosophy of militant anti-communism abroad and staunch liberalism in domestic spheres, including civil rights, environmentalism and labor, made him a standard-bearer for Democrats who rejected the party’s turn toward the antiwar left. He became a mentor to a generation of young Cold War liberals who later became identified as neoconservatives and migrated into the Reagan administration in the 1980s, including Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams, Carl Gershman and others.

Jackson was born in the home of his parents Peter and Marine Jackson in Everett, Washington. Both parents were immigrants from Norway. Jackson was nicknamed “Scoop” by his sister in his childhood, after a comic strip character that he is said to have resembled.

Jackson received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a law degree from the University of Washington. Admitted to the bar in 1935, he was elected prosecuting attorney for Snohomish County in 1938, where he made a name for himself prosecuting bootleggers and gamblers. He successfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in 1940. From then on, Jackson did not lose a congressional election.

Jackson joined the Army when the United States entered World War II, but left when Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all Congressmen to return home or resign their seats. As a representative, he visited the Buchenwald concentration camp a few days after its liberation in 1945. He attended the International Maritime Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1945 with the American delegation, and was elected president of the same conference in 1946, when it was held in Seattle, Washington. From 1945 to 1947 Jackson was also the chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs. In the 1952 election, Jackson relinquished his seat in the House for a run for one of Washington’s Senate seats. Jackson won that election, soundly defeating Republican Senator Harry P. Cain, and remained a Senator for over thirty years. Jackson died in office in 1983 after winning re-election for the fifth time in 1982.

Though Jackson opposed the excesses of Joe McCarthy (who had traveled to Washington State (who had traveled to Washington State to campaign against him in 1952), he also criticized President Dwight Eisenhower for not spending enough on national defense, and called for more inter-continental ballistic missiles in the national arsenal. Jackson’s support for nuclear weapons resulted in a primary challenge from the left in 1958, when he handily defeated Seattle peace activist Alice Franklin Bryant before winning re-election with 67 percent of the vote — a total he topped the next four times he ran for re-election.

Jackson boasted one of the strongest records on civil rights during the civil rights era.He supported the 1957 Civil Rights Act, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In April 1968, responding to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Jackson gave a speech in which he talked about the legacy and injustice of inequality.

A leader of the fight for statehood for Alaska and Hawaii in 1959, Jackson was made chairman in 1963 of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, which became the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in 1977, a position he held until 1981. He authored the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969.  In the 1970s, he joined with fellow senators Ernest Hollings and Edward Kennedy in a press conference to oppose President Gerald Ford’s request that Congress end Richard Nixon’s price controls on domestic oil, which had helped to cause the gasoline lines during the 1973 Oil Crisis.

As the leading anti-communist voice in the Democratic Party during the Vietnam era, Jackson sponsored the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment in the Senate (with Rep. Charles Vanik sponsoring it in the House). The amendment, a signature victory for the post-1967 Soviet Jewry freedom movement and a watershed moment for American Jewish lobbying influence in Congress, denied normal trade relations to countries with non-market economies that restricted the freedom of emigration. The amendment, attached to the 1974 Trade Act, was intended to help refugees, particularly minorities, specifically Jews, to emigrate from the Soviet Bloc. Though fiercely opposed by the Nixon administration, which saw it as threatening Nixon’s policy of détente with the Soviet Union, it passed both houses of Congress by overwhelming majorities in December 1974 and was signed into law by President Gerald Ford on January 3, 1975.

Jackson and his assistant, Richard Perle, also lobbied personally for some people who were affected by this law — among them Anatoly (now Natan) Sharansky. Jackson also led the opposition within the Democratic Party against the SALT II treaty, and was one of the leading proponents of increased foreign aid to Israel.

For decades, Democrats who supported a strong international presence for the United States have been called “Scoop Jackson Democrats,” the term even being used to describe contemporary Democrats such as former senator Joe Lieberman and former CIA director R. James Woolsey, Jr.