A picture of Representative Terri A. Sewell
Terri S.
Democrat AL 7

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  • Remembering Jimmie Lee Jackson

    by Representative Terri A. Sewell

    Posted on 2015-02-12

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    SEWELL of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, today, I rise to celebrate the life and legacy of Jimmie Lee Jackson.

    Jimmie Lee Jackson was one of the foot soldiers who died to ensure that all Americans have the fundamental right to vote.

    This 26-year-old Marion, Alabama, native was brutally killed at the hands of an Alabama State trooper on February 18, 1965, after attending a voting rights rally while trying to protect his mother and his 82- year-old grandfather.

    The State trooper confronted the family at Mack's Cafe in Marion and shot Jimmie Lee Jackson at gunpoint range for simply shielding his family from the intimidation and retributions being carried out by law enforcement.

    And to think that this occurred because of the audacity of this young man and his family to peacefully protest for their constitutional rights, which led to his brutal murder at the hands of law enforcement.

    It was the senseless murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson that served as a catalyst for the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama. Jimmie Lee Jackson deserves to have his proper place in American history as a true agent of change.

    Likewise, the city of Marion is, rightly, the starting point of the historic road to voter equality that led marchers from Selma to Montgomery. I have sponsored efforts and look forward to the National Park Service adding the city of Marion to the historic trail from Selma to Montgomery.

    [[Page H988]] The senseless killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson shocked the consciousness of the American public and galvanized local leaders to be even more resolved in their fight against the inequalities in voting.

    Who was to blame for the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson? Dr. Martin Luther King professed, as he eulogized Jimmie Lee Jackson at his funeral, we are all to blame for his murder. Dr. King said it best: A State trooper pointed the gun, but he did not act alone. He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff who practices lawlessness in the name of law.

    He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every politician, from Governors on down, who has fed his constituent the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.

    He was murdered by the timidity of a Federal Government that would spend millions of dollars a day to keep troops in South Vietnam and cannot protect the rights of its own citizens seeking the right to vote.

    He was murdered by the cowardice of every Negro who passively accepts the evils of segregation and stands on the sidelines in the struggle for justice.

    Justice should be blind, Mr. Speaker, but in many cases it is not. Everyone knew who killed Jimmie Lee Jackson, but it wasn't until 40 years later, when Michael Jackson, Dallas County's first Black district attorney, reopened the investigation, that the wheels of justice slowly began to turn.

    Yesterday, this august body unanimously passed H.R. 431, a bill that would award a Congressional Gold Medal to the foot soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final march from Selma to Montgomery. It is past due, Mr. Speaker, that these brave men and women take their proper place as agents of change in American history.

    While Jimmie Lee Jackson did not live to participate in the march from Selma to Montgomery, he was there in spirit. It was his spirit that gave strength to the weak, that gave courage to the scared, and that gave hope to the hopeless.

    To his family, I say this Nation owes his family a debt of gratitude which we can never repay. My hope is that this national recognition of the significance of the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson will spur a renewed commitment in all of us to continue to fight for justice and equality for all.

    We, the beneficiaries of that struggle, must continue his fight. We must continue to stand together. We must continue to be united in the fight for justice everywhere it is needed. Jimmie Lee Jackson did not stand on the sidelines waiting patiently for justice to come, nor should we.

    Dr. King once said: If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

    We must continue to stand together because our greatest and biggest fights are yet to come. We still need Federal oversight to ensure that every eligible voter in these United States is able to cast their ballot and that every vote matters.

    Jimmie Lee Jackson recognized the importance of the vote. He recognized the power of the ballot box. We owe it to ourselves and to the memory of Jimmie Lee Jackson to continue his fight.


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