Shelby M. Jackson
|Shelby M. Jackson|
|Louisiana Superintendent of Education|
|Preceded by||John E. Coxe|
|Succeeded by||William Joseph "Bill" Dodd|
November 20, 1903|
Concordia Parish, Louisiana, USA
|Died||January 1972 (age 68)|
|Spouse(s)||Phoebe S. Jackson|
|Alma mater||Louisiana State University|
Shelby M. Jackson (November 20, 1903 – January 1972) was a Democrat who served from 1948 to 1964 as the superintendent of public education in Louisiana. In the early 1960s, Jackson tried in vain to block federally authorized school desegregation. Jackson was posthumously honored in 1994, by the naming of the "Shelby M. Jackson Memorial Campus" of Louisiana Technical College in Ferriday.
Jackson was a native of Monterey in Concordia Parish in eastern Louisiana. He held both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. A former educator, Jackson was elected four times as his state's school superintendent. In his first election in 1948, Jackson ran on the unsuccessful Sam Houston Jones gubernatorial slate but he managed to unseat the incumbent superintendent, John E. Coxe. In 1956, he defeated to primary rivals to gain his third term. In his last reelection on April 17, 1960, he overwhelmed the first Republican ever to seek the Louisiana superintendency, Donald Emerich, a professor at Centenary College in Shreveport. Jackson polled 86.7 percent of the two-party vote, to Emerich's 13.3 percent. Jackson became well-known politically through his tenure as superintendent. For sixteen years, nearly every child's report card in the state bore Jackson's stenciled signature.
Jackson, as superintendent, advocated increased state spending on education, but not federal financing. In a 1962 address in Minden, he said that inadequate financing and federal control of education were great dangers to public schools. He said that local administrators should not be burdened with finances but instead focus their time on strengthening instruction. He claimed that the interest group, the NAACP, followed 14-point goals set by the Communist Party of the United States. "It is important that we unite, work on this problem together, and return to constitutional government. We must do everything we can to place the United States first over all other nations and maintain our sovereignty."
Jackson runs for governor, 1963
Continuing his strong segregationist position, Jackson had on November 13, 1960, declared a school holiday in an attempt to thwart court-ordered school desegregation in Orleans Parish, where the first race-mixing was implemented in Louisiana schools. The legislature in special session passed twenty-nine segregation laws, all struck down by U.S. District Judge J. Skelly Wright. The legislature also named Risley C. Triche of Napoleonville to head an eight-member committee to supervise the Orleans Parish schools and to maintain segregation. Wright's rulings however, were upheld, and desegregation proceeded.
Jackson was hospitalized in 1961 for several weeks but recovered. A journalist described him as "a militant anti-communist ... whose speeches run pretty long and are sometimes repetitive. He does not have good relations with some of the press. He can be pretty stubborn. He rarely seems relaxed."
As expected, Jackson entered the 1963 Democratic gubernatorial primary. He campaigned on an intraparty "ticket" with New Orleans attorney Harry R. Cabral (1926–1998), who sought the position of lieutenant governor against the incumbent conservative Clarence C. Aycock of Franklin in St. Mary Parish. Jackson was said to represent "dissent against the 'liberal' tendencies in both state and national government" and seemingly expected to "ride the current wave of 'conservative' protest into office."
Jackson finished fifth with 103,945 votes (11.5 percent). Others fared worse, including outgoing State Representative Louis J. Michot of Lafayette, a future education superintendent, and Frank Voelker, Jr., an attorney from Lake Providence who left the states' rights panel, the Louisiana Sovereignty Commission, to make the race.
Had he run for a fifth term as superintendent and not for governor, it has been speculated that a clear majority of his votes would have otherwise gone to the fourth-place candidate, former Governor Robert F. Kennon of Minden, the seat of Webster Parish. Therefore, with more than half of Jackson's votes added to his total, Kennon, not fellow Democrat John McKeithen, would have entered the party runoff primary with the Number 1 candidate, former New Orleans Mayor deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison, Sr.
One may indeed argue that Jackson had little chance of being governor, but he inadvertently denied Kennon the likelihood of a second nonconsecutive term. Jackson endorsed the successful McKeithen in the runoff with Morrison. Cabral finished far behind in the lieutenant governor's race as well, with victory going to the conservative Aycock.
Dodd's dirty trick on Jackson
Jackson was succeeded as superintendent by his fellow Democrat, William J. "Bill" Dodd, who served from 1964 to 1972. Dodd claimed in his memoirs Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics that he and his friends encouraged Jackson to run for governor to clear the way for Dodd to seek the superintendency. Dodd said that many of his own backers sent personal letters to Jackson with $1 bills as campaign contributions to demonstrate "grass-roots" support for the segregationist candidate. And Jackson fell for Dodd's bait—entering a gubernatorial race that he could not win and surrendering his superintendency, which he may well have retained had he sought a fifth term. It was a "dirty trick" to which Dodd confesses in his memoirs.
Dodd said that Jackson had tried to capitalize on the desegregation crisis: "Shelby Jackson was too dumb and schoolteacherish to use his great opportunities effectively. Too, my being on the [state education] board and gigging him quietly didn't help his cause much."
Shelby M. Jackson Campus
Jackson's widow, Phoebe S. Jackson (September 3, 1904—November 5, 2005), left an endowment for the renamed Shelby M. Jackson Campus in 1994 and then expanded the financial support in 1997. It had been originally Concordia Parish Trade School, then Concordia Vocational-Technical School, and then Concordia Technical Institute until it was renamed in honor of Jackson.
- Minden Herald, January 5, 1956, p. 10
- Minden Herald, January 16, 1948, p. 1
- "Senatorial Candidate Plans Appearance Here", Minden Herald, September 27, 1962, pp. 1, 14
- Jack Walter Peltason, Fifty-eight Lonely Men: Southern Federal Judges and Desegregation", 1971, pp. 22-230. Google Books. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- "Shelby Jackson's Recovery Marks Start of Campaigning", Minden Herald, Minden, Louisiana, July 27, 1961
- William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, The Louisiana Elections of 1960, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Studies, 1963, p. 99
John E. Coxe
|Louisiana State Superintendent of Education
Shelby M. Jackson
William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics, Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishing, 1991