Jackson Center Has Unique Role

The Robert H. Jackson Center isn’t slowing down as it enters its second decade of existence.

In May, John Roberts, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, will visit the center – the second visit to Jamestown by a sitting chief justice in 10 years and the third visit by a Supreme Court justice since 2000.

Roberts’ visit is a testament to the persistence of Greg Peterson and the rest of the Robert H. Jackson Center staff. For more than a decade, the center has hosted notable events featuring some of Jackson’s most notable Supreme Court cases and those who served alongside Jackson in the war crimes trials at Nuremberg. Noted law schools would be hard-pressed to match the quality of programming generated by the Jackson Center in its short history. The 2003 visit by former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the upcoming visit by Roberts are shining examples of the Jackson Center’s relevance in the legal realm.

There are many local residents who helped the Jackson Center achieve that relevance. Greg Peterson, Elizabeth Lenna, Daniel Bratton and Carl Cappa saw the potential for a center focused on Robert H. Jackson. Rolland Kidder’s time as executive director helped place the new center on solid ground. Area foundations committed money to purchase for former Scottish Rite Consistory Building and to make renovations to make the center a first-rate destination.

Of course, none of that would be possible without having a man with a sterling legacy on which to build such a center. Robert H. Jackson’s life was the stuff of storybooks – a high school graduate who did not attend college, rose through the ranks of the legal profession, served his country during a time of war, and eventually landed a position on the U.S. Supreme Court. Then, when his nation called upon him to prosecute Nazi war criminals after World War II, Jackson not only led the prosecution but did so in a way that laid the groundwork for all such future trials. Jackson’s life is proof that any goal, no matter how grandiose, can be achieved. His career is a testament to the ideal of fairness and justice for all.

The world doesn’t always live up to Jackson’s lofty ideal of fairness and justice for all, which makes the Jackson Center’s role in world politics pretty unique. In our own backyard, preserved by a group of dedicated staff members and volunteers in a quaint brick building on Fourth Street, is a place legal scholars can use when they need guidance in the field of international criminal law or where murky questions of constitutional law can be made clear by Jackson’s words.

Anyone who has the opportunity should attend Roberts’ speech at 10 a.m. May 17 at the Jackson Center. Those attending won’t be disappointed.