JACKSON, LEO A.

JACKSON, LEO ALBERT (1920 - 1996) was an AFRICAN AMERICAN lawyer, judge, and city councilman who served in the MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF CARL B. STOKES.

Jackson was born the 15th child of William and Hattie Howard Jackson in working class Lake City, Florida. His mother, a strong supporter of education, influenced him to complete a B.A. at Morehouse College: a historically Black institution where Jackson later stated he first felt pride in his African American heritage. In 1946, Jackson completed his M.A. at Atlanta University; after a brief return to Florida, he moved to study law at CLEVELAND-MARSHALL. Working as a postal clerk by day to fund his studies by night, Jackson received his J.D. in 1950 and entered private practice. In 1954, he became involved in the GLENVILLE Area Community Council, and took credit for a 20% reduction in crime after securing better police communications, encouraging resident vigilance, and attacking bar establishments. Jackson became popular enough that 1,200 residents drafted him to run for city council as the 24th ward representative. Thus, Jackson started his political career in 1957 with an upset victory against HARRY T. MARSHALL, a White Republican and city minority leader.

As a politician, Jackson was a ‘liberal’ Democrat with a keen interest in housing and communal issues. Key to this was his handling of the issue of African American IMMIGRATION, which had resulted in exploitation and urban decay. As a representative of a multi-racial district with a large -and partially black- Middle Class population, Jackson had a keen interest in guarding against these processes. Sourcing these issues to blockbusting slumlords, overcrowded dwellings, and ‘illicit’ industries, Jackson worked to combat their spread by digging up cases of illegal housing conversions and publicizing them in the local press. These efforts generated a new building code and increased attention on housing inspections.

Jackson also believed that working-class Black communities needed higher police involvement:

“a Negro who cuts a Negro gets a slap on the hand fine. A Negro who cuts a White man gets the book… We have to take steps against the relaxation of law enforcement that leads to a high crime rate and all the things that stigmatize us…”

This stance, Jackson’s harsh criticisms of Black individuals he felt were slumlords and bar-keepers, and his indictment of many migrant ‘ruralisms’, made him controversial in Black circles. However, he retained strong support from both Cleveland’s White masses and Middle Class Black ‘elite', for whom Jackson’s grass-roots and aggressive enforcement became notorious: in one anecdote, he reportedly followed ‘night prowling’ men looking for prostitutes, recorded their license plate numbers, and called their wives.

In 1961, Jackson declined an appointment as a Municipal Judge by Governor MICHAEL V. DISALLE, a controversial move that many African Americans decried for turning ‘back racial relations by 25 years’. Jackson felt that he was needed in his ward, even though the appointment would have tripled his salary from $5,000 a year (plus $2,000 from a neglected private practice) to $15,000. In 1963, Jackson similarly declined a posting as the Director of Health and Welfare under mayor RALPH S. LOCHER, which would have also about tripled his income. These moves generated some suspicion that Jackson was playing a political long game, presenting himself as an honest ‘people’s servant’. By 1965, he was being floated as a potential mayoral candidate, along with NAACP chapter president CLARENCE H. HOLMES and state representative CARL B. STOKES.

It was under the MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF CARL B. STOKES, who successfully ran in 1967, that Jackson would finally accept an appointment outside of his ward. Under Stokes, Jackson served as chair of the Urban Renewal Committee and city council’s Community Development Committee, promoting better insurance policies which he believed would stop urban flight. In 1970, Jackson was elected to the 8th district court of appeals, where he served for three terms, twice as chief judge. He additionally served a temporary position on the Ohio Supreme Court as a special assignment. Jackson retired in 1987 and was honored by the Ohio State Bar Association.

Jackson’s wife, Gilberta, was from Atlanta, Georgia. They raised two children, Linda and Leonard. Jackson passed in 1996.

Leo A. Jackson
Leo A. Jackson, Cleveland Public Library P-Jackson, Leo

Justin Evans

 


Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding aid for the Leo A. Jackson Papers. WRHS.

 


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