Immediately before the 1980 Liberian coup d'état, Doe served as Nimba County's senior senator, but when the government was overthrown, he lost his office, was tried for treason, and imprisoned at the Barclay Training Center. Rebel leader Samuel Doe (no relation) released him from prison at the end of June 1980 but forbade him to leave the country. In the country's 1985 elections, he ran for president as the candidate of the Liberian Action Party against Samuel Doe, who had been the country's head of state since the coup. According to official results, Samuel received a tiny majority of votes in the election. However, many foreign observers alleged fraud and suggested that Jackson was the true victor; according to organizations such as the BBC, Jackson had won an absolute majority of votes cast nationwide. Jackson's running mate was Emmanuel S. Kroma.
Jackson Doe went into hiding as a result of Thomas Quiwonkpa's attempted coup d'état in November 1985. Samuel Doe's government, led essentially by the People's Redemption Council of which Samuel was the chairman, claimed that the coup had been a project of the LAP, that it had been financed in large part by LAP Senator-elect Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and that its goal was the placement of Jackson in the presidency. In June of the following year, the government arrested him on an unrelated issue. Along with Edward Kesselly of the Unity Party and Gabriel Kpolleh of the Liberia Unification Party, he was charged with leading his party into a "Grand Coalition" with the UP and the LUP to form a Grand Coalition of parties opposed to Samuel's rule. Elections officials in Samuel's government held that the coalition was not a political party and thus determined that the three party leaders had illegally campaigned on behalf of an organisation that the elections officials had not permitted to compete in the election. President Doe furthermore urged the Senate to attaint the three standard bearers, imprisoning them until 2011 and barring them from future involvement in politics.
In 2004, Sirleaf – by then the president of the country – credited his death as one of the most prominent events that induced her to abandon her former membership in the National Patriotic Front of Liberia. In 2011, his memory was honored by the government, which named a new Nimba County hospital for him. He is unrelated to Samuel Doe, and thus also unrelated to Samuel's brother Jackson E. Doe, who was once the Minister of Transport in the administration of President Sirleaf.
- Elwood D. Dunn, Amos J. Beyan, Carl Patric Burrowes: Historical Dictionary of Liberia. = Historical African Distionaries No. 83. 2nd ed. Scarecrow: Lanham and London, 2001. p. 110f. online
- "Jackson Doe Goes Home To Campaign". The Mirror 1985-09-24: 1/10.
- "14 Released from Jail". Weekend News 1980-06-26: 1/2.
- Moran, Mary H. Liberia: The Violence of Democracy. 1st paperback ed. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2008, 120.
- Gifford, Paul. Christianity and Politics in Doe's Liberia. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993, 22.
- "Instant Trial for Those Involved in Foiled Coup". SunTimes 1985-11-21: 1/8.
- "25 Years Jail Term for 3 Political Leaders?" SunTimes 1986-06-15: 1/6.
- Government of Liberia. Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital in Tappita Dedicated. The New Republic, 2011-02-22. Accessed 2012-04-28.
- Ellis, Stephen. The Mask of Anarchy: the Destruction of Liberia and the Religious Dimension of an African Civil War. London: Hurst, 1999, 85. ISBN 1-85065-401-8
- "After Years of Denial: Ellen-Sirleaf Confesses". National Chronicle 2004-03-05: 1.
- President Johnson Sirleaf Facilitates Reconciliation Between Prince Johnson and Jackson E. Doe, Office of the President, 2008-09-02. Accessed 2012-04-28.