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Arland O. Fiske: The tale of ‘Scoop’ Jackson — counselor to presidents

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The Seattle area became home to a large number of Norwegian immigrants. Among these were Peter Greset Isaaksen from Aure, west of Trondheim, and Marine Andersen from Norfold. Little could they realize that their futures would be joined in the New World and that their son, Henry, would become one of its most respected statesmen.

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Like so many other immigrants, Peter did not retain any of his Norwegian names. Instead, he became “Jackson.” The solid Scandinavian character of honesty and stubborn determination, however, became his trademark as he began life in western Washington.

Henry Jackson was born May 31, 1912, in Everett, Washington, where he graduated from high school in 1930. His sister gave the nickname “Scoop” to him because she thought he resembled a comic strip character by that name that always got others to do his work for him.

He received a law degree from the University of Washington in 1935.

The law office, however, was too quiet for this young Norseman. In 1938, he won his first election as a prosecuting attorney. In 1940, he went to Congress as a Democrat and moved into the United States Senate in 1952, despite an Eisenhower landslide. He remained in that post until his death on September 1, 1983. He never lost an election.

When the Democrats were looking for a candidate to run against Nixon in 1972, his Senate colleagues picked him as the most qualified to be president. He didn’t win the nomination, but he was highly respected by Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon who often asked his advice particularly on matters of national defense.

Kennedy chose Jackson as his running mate in 1960, but yielded to pressure for Lyndon Johnson in order get the southern votes.

In 1968, he was Nixon’s first choice for Secretary of Defense and was also offered the Secretary of State position. After serious deliberation, he turned down both offers.

Jackson took a hard line on Communism but believed in negotiations. He used his power to persuade the Soviets to soften their treatment of Jews. The presidents could always count on his support for defense. Together with his strong Americanism, he was also fiercely proud of his Norwegian heritage and showed his concern often for the well being of Norway. People always knew where Jackson stood on issues. He was known to say, “I guess I’m just a stubborn Norwegian.”

Jackson had a soft spot for the poor. He set up a fund to buy shoes for needy school children in his hometown. The money paid to him for speeches was used to provide scholarships for college students. No one knew where the money came from until the laws required public officials to make financial disclosures. He had never even told his staff.

On June 26, 1984, President Reagen posthumously awarded Jackson the Medal of Freedom in a Rose Garden ceremony. The president praised the senator from Washington as a protector of the nation, its freedoms and values.

The epithet on his gravestone reads: “If you believe in the cause of freedom, then proclaim it, live it and protect it, for humanity’s future depends upon it.” All Americans can be proud of this Norseman from the West Coast. The world needs more of his kind.

Next Week: Norwegian Deaconesses Build Hospital in Chicago.

— Arland FIiske, a retired Lutheran minister who previously lived in Laporte and now lives in Texas, is the author of 10 books on Scandinavian themes.

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