Joseph Harrison Jackson (1905? – 1990) was an American pastor and President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. from 1953 through 1982. During the height of the American Civil Rights Movement, Jackson's vocal stance for "civil rights through law and order", in direct opposition to the civil disobedience methods advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., became the focus of controversy among African Americans and Black church leadership.
Jackson grew up as a Mississippi farm boy, and had to teach himself arithmetic, spelling and reading while leading cows to pasture or doing other chores. Despite these humble beginnings, he pursued university studies and eventually obtained two graduate degrees, including one from Colgate Rochester Divinity School.
In 1941 Jackson was called as pastor of the historic Olivet Baptist Church on Chicago's South Side, where he served until his death in 1990. Under his leadership membership in the congregation grew to more than 20,000.
Upon the retirement of David V. Jemison as president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. in 1952, Jackson ran for president of the convention on a reform platform, calling for a constitutional amendment that would limit the president to four consecutive terms. With the help of Martin Luther King, Sr., and Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackson easily won the election.
On August 26, 1954, Jackson was given the honor of presiding over a worship service at the second assembly of the World Council of Churches in Evanston, Illinois (outside Chicago). Jackson also served as an NBCUSA delegate to the Council.
Jackson was reelected to the NBCUSA presidency three more times, thus bringing him to the end of the four-term limit that had been put in place at his initial election. In 1956, as his fourth term came to an end, Jackson and his supporters overturned the tenure amendment that he had supported earlier, and he was reelected to a fifth term as president.
Controversy erupted at the National Baptist Convention meeting in Louisville, Kentucky in 1957, during which an embarrassing chair-throwing incident occurred. As a result of that controversy, Jackson dismissed ten ministers from the convention.
An "progressive" oppositional group, led by Gardner C. Taylor of Brooklyn, New York, included Martin Luther King, Sr.; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Ralph Abernathy, King's fellow Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader; Benjamin Mays, president of Morehouse College; and L. Venchael Booth, a Cincinnati, Ohio pastor. This group filed suit against Jackson, accusing him of violating the denomination's constitution. The court decided in Jackson's favor, and at the annual convention meeting in Philadelphia in 1960, Jackson was installed once again as president. In response to Jackson's reelection, Taylor's "progressive" group demanded a roll call, but instead the meeting was adjourned. The dispute was once again taken to court, and the court again sided with Jackson. He remained as president of the convention. The events of the next annual meeting in Kansas City, Missouri were among the most memorable, and infamous, in the organization's history. During that meeting Taylorites attempted to secure control of the podium to compel a headcount for the organization's presidency. Jackson's minions blocked access to the podium and a riot broke out. In the course of the melee Rev. A. G. Wright of Detroit fell four feet from the stage to the auditorium floor, suffering a fatal concussion. The proceedings returned to order only after the Mayor of Kansas City, H. Roe Bartle, appealed to the clergymen to cease fighting.
Following the meeting, Jackson pointedly denounced the nonviolent civil rights movement, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Congress of Racial Equality. He also removed King from the vice-presidency of the Baptist Training Union and Sunday School Congress. In response, the leadership of the "progressive" movement met together in 1961 at Zion Baptist Church in Cincinnati, where they organized the Progressive National Baptist Convention. About half a million NBCUSA members (including the Kings) ended up leaving the NBCUSA for the new group.
Jackson continued as president of the NBCUSA until September 1982, when he was unseated by the long-serving General Secretary of the Convention, T.J. Jemison, the son of Jackson's predecessor in that office.
Joseph Harrison Jackson died in August 1990 in Chicago, approximately 85 years of age, while still serving as pastor of Olivet Baptist Church.
Jackson earnestly preached national unity. "The most important thing now," he said in a 1970 interview, "is to save the nation, in order to save the individual citizen, and the race." In his view, the civil rights movement was disruptive of that unity. "It was supposed to be a struggle for first-class citizenship, not for getting Whitey," he maintained. "Those who wanted their rights are being sold another bill of goods now. There are Negroes who believe their mission is to destroy America."
Christianity, he argued, permits protest against unjust laws but not rebellion against civil order. "The difference between Negro Christians and white Christians is the meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ. Our forefathers were cross-bearers. They believed in it. You can't build a great church preaching hate, envy, and revenge, and sending the people out on the street after the service mad at the world. No matter how nonviolent, civil disobedience lays the ground for civil hatred and the desire to destroy. They took from the civil rights struggle the religious faith that went with it."
In 1968 Jackson was one of the few black leaders to endorse Richard Nixon's candidacy for President of the United States. That year Jackson was also proclaimed "Patriot of the Year" by right-wing activist Billy James Hargis, in recognition of Jackson's outspoken law-and-order stance.
The Progressive National Baptist Convention: The Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC) Was Founded in 1961, in the Aftermath of Several Years of Conflict within the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. (NBC). the Conflict Centered on Two Issues: (1) the Tenure of President Joseph H. Jackson, and (2) the Civil Rights Activism of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1)
Jan 01, 2005; The Joseph H. Jackson presidency and controversy Upon the retirement of David V. Jemison as NBC president in 1952, Joseph H....