U.S. senator, Washington
Henry Martin Jackson was born in Everett, Washington, on May 31, 1912. He graduated from the University of Washington, where he also received his law degree in 1935. "Scoop" Jackson, as he became known, was admitted to the Washington Bar and began practice with an Everett law firm. The lure of public life was strong, however, and in the fall of 1938 he was elected to the prosecutor's office at the age of 26.
As prosecuting attorney, Jackson won a reputation as a foe of gambling and bootlegging, setting the stage for his election to the U.S. Congress in 1940 from Washington's Second District.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, he became a specialist in military affairs and nuclear energy. He served in the U.S. Army as an enlisted man during WWII until recalled to his congressional duties by President Franklin Roosevelt. In 1945, Congressman Jackson visited Buchenwald, a few days after the death camp was liberated, an event that deeply affected his views on freedom and human rights. While serving in the House he also played an influential role on issues of particular interest to the West like public lands, reclamation, and hydroelectric power development. Jackson was reelected five times to the House of Representatives.
In 1952, he successfully challenged incumbent Harry P. Cain for his seat in the U.S. Senate. For more than 30 years, Senator Jackson was deeply involved in the major issues of American political life, from the drama of the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954 to the liberation of Soviet Jewry in the 1970s. He became an acknowledged authority on national security, energy and environmental issues.
From 1963 to 1980, Senator Jackson served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and its predecessor, the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. In this capacity, he played a leading role in the conservation legislation of the 1960s and the energy legislation of the 1970s. As an "environmentalist" long before the term was fashionable, Senator Jackson authored the landmark National Environmental Policy Act and sponsored legislation to preserve vast parklands and wilderness areas throughout the United States, including the North Cascades Park, Olympic National Park and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington state. He also authored the Alaska and Hawaii Statehood Acts.
Senator Jackson served as a member of both the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy and the Armed Services Committee for many years and was the ranking Democratic member of the Armed Services Committee at his death. He was an expert on nuclear weapons and strategic issues and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.
As a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Jackson conducted pioneering congressional inquiries on the National Security Council and policy-making at the presidential level, and chaired the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
In 1960, Senator Jackson chaired the Democratic National Committee during the Kennedy presidential campaign. Although picked by his colleagues in informal polls as the senator best qualified to be president, Senator Jackson was defeated in efforts to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972 and 1976.