Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, a Democrat from Washington state who served in the House from 1941 to 1953 before going on to spend the next three decades in the Senate, was born on this date in Everett, Washington, to Norwegian immigrants. He was the fifth and youngest of the Jackson children. As a child, Jackson was nicknamed “Scoop” by a sister, after a comic strip character that he was said to have resembled. The moniker stuck.
Throughout his career in public life, Jackson’s political credo combined support of civil rights, human rights and safeguarding the environment, with an equally strong commitment to oppose totalitarian doctrines, especially domestic communism and the Soviet Union. He co-sponsored the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which denied normal trade relations with the United States to countries with restrictive emigration policies and was directly aimed at the Kremlin.
While never losing a congressional election, Jackson was twice an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, in 1972 and 1976.
In 1935, when he graduated from law school, he began to practice law in Everett. While still in his 20s, he was elected as the prosecuting attorney for Snohomish County, where he successfully went after bootleggers and gamblers.
In 1961, Jackson — after being labeled by Time magazine the Senate’s “most eligible bachelor” — married Helen Hardin, a 28-year-old Senate receptionist. For the next several years, when away from the capital, the couple lived in Jackson’s childhood home in Everett with his unmarried sisters.
Jackson joined the U.S. Army when the nation entered World War II in 1941, but left when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered members of Congress to return to their legislative duties or resign their seats.
In 1952, Jackson relinquished his House seat to run for the Senate, defeating Republican Sen. Harry Cain. He was Washington’s first senator to be born in the state. Although Jackson opposed the excesses of Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.), who went to Washington state to campaign against him, he also criticized President Dwight Eisenhower for, as he saw it, not spending enough on national defense.
During the 1960 Democratic presidential primary season, Jackson was Sen. John F. Kennedy‘s first choice for running mate. However, JFK became convinced that a Southerner would give him a better chance of winning. (Sen. Lyndon Johnson of Texas, the majority leader, joined the ticket.)
While still serving in the Senate, Jackson died suddenly on Sept. 1, 1983, at age 71. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) said, “Henry Jackson is proof of the old belief in the Judaic tradition that at any moment in history goodness in the world is preserved by the deeds of 36 just men who do not know that this is the role the Lord has given them. Henry Jackson was one of those men.”