In honor of the accomplished life of Don Jackson, Congressman Jim Costa issued an extension of remarks to the Congressional Record. Please find complete record HERE.
Dad was very lucky to have Don Jackson in his life and beyond during the past 50 years. “Big D,” as Dad called him, was a dear friend, political advisor, law partner, personal attorney and legacy-minder for Ken Maddy.
Dad described Don as, “extremely well-organized,” “very bright,” and “a no-lose kind of guy,” and credited him with conceiving our winning strategy for Dad’s first election; the 1970 Primary for the 32nd Assembly District. Based upon Don’s research and analysis of district voting patterns, he advised Dad to emphasize his moderate-to-liberal views during the campaign.
Dad wisely followed Don’s advice and we ran to the left of our Primary opponent, former Young Republicans Chair John Hicks. How far left? The first quote in our press release announcing the campaign began: “There’s a great need for action with respect to our environment and the pollution of our atmosphere and water, for action in creating programs for those living in oppressive poverty….”
Don was also there to help when Dad lost his bid for Governor in 1978. He offered Dad a partnership in his law firm, which was gladly accepted. The partnership was brief, since Dad won a special election to the State Senate the following year. But, having the safety net of Don’s law firm allowed Dad, both mentally and financially, to go all out during his Senate run.
In early 1999, following Dad’s cancer prognosis of eight months, we called Big D to get things organized. For those of you who know Don well, there wasn’t a lot of commiserating. And, for those of you who know Dad well, that’s why Don was brought in. We had lots to do. We weren’t sure how long we had to do it. And we needed it done right. For me personally, Don’s help before and after Dad passed was a godsend.
I am also personally grateful that Don suggested to Dad that I work on the 1978 gubernatorial campaign, a job interview I will never forget. At the time I was making pretty good money bagging groceries. In typical Don fashion, he somehow convinced me I would be better off working for the campaign, even though I’d be making less money and working much harder. After we shook hands on my acceptance of $600/month, Don laughed and said, “you’ll probably make about a dollar an hour.” He was right, but it was it was a labor of love and the experience of a lifetime.
God Bless You, Big D!
The Maddy Family greatly appreciates the hard work of all past and present Maddy Institute Board and Staff Members, with very special recognition of Don’s devotion to Dad’s legacy through the Institute. I will miss hearing Don’s advice, and will continue to honor the trail which he and others blazed.
Don was instrumental in the founding of the Maddy Institute–and led us as Board Chair for the first 10 years of our existence (1999-2009). Until last year, he was our CFO/Treasurer (2009-2018). I often joked with him that he was the “George Washington” of the Maddy Institute — we wouldn’t exist without his leadership.
It is virtually impossible to express what Don meant to the Maddy Institute generally and me, personally. His efforts on behalf of the public policy institute that bears his friend’s name is a testament to not only that friendship, but his commitment he had to make the Valley a better place. Personally, I have never learned more from someone–he was an amazing strategic thinking and a (well meaning) task master — and the most important mentor in my professional career.
I know Don is together again with Sydney and Ken, as well as his many family and friends…and I imagine that, from time to time, he’ll be watching to make sure we are doing things “the Don Jackson Way.”
We’ll do our best to honor his legacy by continuing to reach for his standard of excellence.