Jackson Center Is Jewel In Our Midst

Greg Peterson has always said the Robert H. Jackson Center was designed to be a living memorial.

Friday’s visit by Chief Justice John Roberts is just the latest example of how the center is meeting that lofty goal.

The podium Friday was a veritable who’s who of Jackson’s lengthy legal progeny. Phil Neal, Jackson’s oldest surviving law clerk, was in attendance for Friday’s visit – largely because he wanted a chance to talk with E. Barrett Prettyman, Jackson’s last law clerk. After clerking for Jackson, Neal went to San Francisco, where he helped create the United Nations. He then became a professor at Stanford University, where he taught future Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and William Rehnquist. It was Neal who introduced Jackson to Rehnquist, whose legal career began as a Jackson clerk. Father Moritz Fuchs, Jackson’s bodyguard at Nuremberg, was in attendance. And, seated next to a bust that will take its place in the Supreme Court were Jackson’s grandchildren, Melissa Jackson and Tom Loftus.

Jackson’s history assembled because of Roberts, the leader of the organization in which Jackson shined so brightly, saw fit to shine a chief justice’s light once again on Robert H. Jackson.

It’s easy to forget, as we try to make our way in an increasingly fast-paced world, the extraordinary people who came before us. It’s worth remembering as we reflect on the city’s second visit from a sitting chief justice.

Robert H. Jackson was a pragmatic justice who didn’t alienate liberal or conservative justices with his judicial philosophy. He answered the call when asked to by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to lead the Nuremberg War Crime trials. Jackson’s time in Washington included landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Korematsu v. United States. Jackson’s legal reasoning in such cases was used to build much of law as we know it throughout the 1960s and beyond. It is fitting the Supreme Court has seen fit to place a bust of Jackson in its hallowed halls, a visual reminder of Jackson’s way with words and logic.

“I am especially proud to share this anniversary celebration,” Roberts said Friday. “This center is an appropriate monument to its namesake who is well known for his learning and eloquence.”

Our fast-paced world makes it just as easy to forget the organizations in our midst doing extraordinary things right now.

Over its history, the Jackson Center has shined a light on human rights abuses around the globe. The center has hosted civil rights dialogues and events, organized the International Criminal Law Dialogs and created events and brought in speakers to explain how Jackson’s legal work still rings true today. Its current executive director, Jim Johnson, followed in Jackson’s footsteps in his prosecution of Charles Taylor, a warlord who committed human rights atrocities in Sierra Leone for decades. Its board president, David Crane, is a Syracuse University law professor who has served as chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone – the first American to serve in that role since Robert H. Jackson.

The area should be proud of Robert H. Jackson and of the Robert H. Jackson Center. Friday’s events are just another reminder of the jewel in our midst.