Jackson, Henry Martin ("Scoop")
JACKSON, Henry Martin ("Scoop")
(b. 31 May 1912 in Everett, Washington; d. 1 September 1983 in Everett, Washington), U.S. Democratic senator who was an expert on environmental affairs, military matters, and national security over a time span that ranged from Roosevelt to Reagan; he became influential during his nearly forty-three years in Congress and was considered a cold war liberal.
Jackson was the son of two immigrants from Norway: Peter Jackson, a building contractor, and Marine Anderson, a homemaker. Along with his four siblings, Jackson grew up emulating the strong work ethic of his parents. When he was a teenager he set a record for delivering 74,880 copies of the Everett Herald—all without any complaints from newspaper subscribers. His oldest sister gave him the nickname "Scoop" because he reminded her of a comic-strip character of that name. The sobriquet followed Jackson throughout his congressional career.
After graduating from Everett High School, Jackson attended the University of Washington during the Depression. He earned his law degree there in 1935 and practiced law before he became a prosecutor in his native Snohomish County. Known as a serious and deliberate man, he was the youngest prosecutor the county had ever had, and a tenacious one. When he came to Washington, D.C., in 1940 Jackson was just twenty-eight and the youngest member of the House. Soon he gained a reputation as a proponent of national security. Jackson served in the army as an enlisted man during World War II until President Roosevelt recalled him to the House.
In 1952 Jackson began his long career as a senator when he defeated Republican incumbent Harry P. Cain. Over thirty-one years, Jackson became influential in foreign affairs. Ever watchful when it came to the security of the United States, Jackson hated Soviet communism and did his best to fight it.
The 1960s brought Jackson recognition as an ardent advocate of national defense. He was a proponent of the nuclear submarine program and always pressed for public acceptance and endorsement of the arms race. A strong and vocal supporter of civil and labor rights legislation, Jackson worked tirelessly. He chaired hearings on foreign and defense policy in 1959. As chairman of the Democratic Party in the 1960 campaign, Jackson was greatly responsible for getting the public to accept the idea of a defense missile gap, which became part of John F. Kennedy's successful presidential campaign. Jackson was Kennedy's first choice as running mate, but because of Jackson's focus on military defense, Lyndon Johnson was deemed more politically advantageous.
Unceasing in his pursuit of national readiness, Jackson spent most of his efforts on the job and did not take much time for a personal life. When he married Helen Hardin on 16 December 1961, he was nearly fifty. The couple had two children.
Jackson's reputation for opposing all efforts to improve relations between the USSR and the United States grew to colossal proportions in the 1960s. He was firmly against all nuclear arms controls. In 1963 he supported the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, but he was not really in favor of it and hoped it would be withdrawn because he thought it put the United States at a disadvantage.
Also in 1963 Jackson became chair of the Interior Committee and began setting energy and environmental policies. In 1969 he wrote the National Environmental Policy Act, which required federal agencies to examine and report on environmental impact before beginning projects. He was also on the alert for conservation and warned of the impending energy crisis before it became a reality in the 1970s. For his support of conservationist efforts, including expanding wilderness areas and national parks, Jackson was the first politician to receive the Sierra Club's John Muir Award for Conservation in 1969. He was given the National Wildlife Federation's legislator of the year award in 1970.
Jackson's skill in foreign policy and defense attracted conservative Republicans. In 1968 he turned down an offer from Richard Nixon to serve as secretary of either state or defense because Jackson believed he could have more impact on policies from within the Senate. He was always interested in setting public policy, especially national security policy, rather than securing large personal wealth. Those who admired him said he was patriotic; certainly Jackson tried to act in ways he thought would benefit the country. But Jackson's detractors considered his attitude far too militant and criticized his approach as combative. He was not an advocate of making peace with the Russians; instead, he concentrated on being prepared to meet any foreign attack. It might be fair to say that Jackson did not want to trust any enemy who held a bigger gun, so he did not seek to stop the arms race but to keep the United States ahead of Russia.
Not just an expert on national security, Jackson was also a skilled orator who gave detailed speeches that were frequently printed and circulated. His book Fact, Fiction, and National Security (1964) gives insight into military policy.
After the 1960s Jackson continued his vigilance on behalf of national interests. In 1972 and 1976 he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination and lost. But he kept his seat in the Senate and continued to influence policy.
Even after his death, signs of Jackson's reputation as a proponent of national defense continued. In 1984 the Trident submarine was named after him. The same year the Kissinger Commission on Central America dedicated its report to him. In the years that followed, Jackson was remembered for his support of the Vietnam War, his endorsement of big military budgets, and his unending efforts to keep the United States on the alert for foreign enemies.
Jackson died of a ruptured aorta at home in Everett. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Everett. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.
An article on Jackson is in American National Biography, vol. 11 (1999). Also see Peter Ognibene, Scoop: The Life and Politics of Henry M. Jackson (1975). Another source of biographical information is William Prochnau and Richard Larsen, A Certain Democrat: Senator Henry M. Jackson, A Political Biography (1972). The most complete biography of Jackson is Robert G. Kaufman, The Quiet Giant: Henry M. Jackson and the Transformation of American Liberalism from the New Deal to the Present (1999). An article of interest is Jonathan Alter, "The Myth of Scoop Jackson: Big Spender, Big Hawk, and Big Loser," The New Republic (12 May 1986). Worth reading is "Holding the Bridge," Andrew Marshall's book review in The National Interest (22 Dec. 2000) of Robert G. Kaufman, Henry M. Jackson: A Life in Politics (2000). Obituaries are in the New York Times and Washington Post (both 3 Sept. 1983) and the National Review (30 Sept. 1983).
A. E. Schulthies