All his life, Scoop Jackson stayed true to his roots

There’s no getting around it: Henry Jackson loved his hometown of Everett. And Everett loves its hometown hero.

The political superpower known as Scoop left huge footprints in the community, and, today, 100 years after Jackson’s birth and nearly 29 years since his death, a number of personal friends and aging generations of political figures are intent on preserving the legend and legacy of Everett’s most famous native son.

“People understand what his leadership meant,” Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said. “We don’t want to forget Scoop Jackson in our community.”

Everett is where the memories begin and end for Henry Martin “Scoop” Jackson, the son of Norwegian immigrants who became one of the nation’s elite leaders — and nearly president — before his unexpected death in 1983.

“He was the strongest political figure in the history of the state,” said retiring U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who emulated Jackson throughout his own lengthy career.

Yet Jackson didn’t flex his political muscle in Everett, the town in which he was born, raised and always kept a home.

“When he was home, he was just one of the neighbors. He was clearly one of us,” Stephanson said. “He was so humble. He never forgot where he came from.”

* * *

Henry Martin Jackson was born May 31, 1912, in the Oakes Street home of his parents, Peter and Marine Jackson. He was the fifth and last of the Jackson children. He had three sisters, Gertrude, Agnes and Marie, and one brother, Arthur.

Accounts of Jackson’s childhood adventures have been passed down through the years by his friends, neighbors and their children. And in 1989, three Everett Community College faculty members interviewed several of them and cobbled together their tales into a 38-minute video entitled “One of Our Own.” It focuses on Jackson’s youth and early years as a lawyer, prosecutor and politician.

“We didn’t know anything about him. Our goal was to try to determine what sort of individual he really was,” said Tom Gaskin, a professor of history.

The trio learned the young Henry Jackson didn’t change much through the years: He was moral and honest, a sober Norwegian who did not fall prey to sinful indulgences.

“The worst thing the guy did was to put a penny on the railroad tracks to see what happens” when a train ran over it, Gaskin said.

When they wrapped up interviews, he and videographer Lloyd Weller, a digital photography instructor, realized the permanence of the imprint Jackson left on people’s lives.

“Everybody talked about him like he was right there,” Weller said. “This town mattered to him. People continually remarked how integrated he was in the community. I don’t think he ever lost that connection.”

* * *

Washingtonians had a taste of Everett’s politics and politicians before Jackson’s emergence as a national figure.

In 1940, voters elected Democratic U.S. Rep. Monrad Wallgren of Everett into the Senate. On the same ballot, Jackson captured Wallgren’s seat in the 2nd Congressional District.

Four years later, Wallgren was elected governor, the second Everett resident to hold that job.

Jackson’s career served to anchor the blue-collar city’s presence on the state’s political map while introducing Everett to the nation and its civic leaders to members of Congress. Jackson wouldn’t hesitate to invite the sitting mayor of Everett into the Senate dining room to meet other senators.

As a young man, Gary Baker worked at Jackson’s side in the 1982 campaign, serving as his driver and assistant. He recalled how the proud Norwegian sometimes used his hometown roots to deflate the tone of questions from reporters.

“When he’d get some high-browed question, he’d say, ‘I’m just a country boy from Everett, Washington,’” said Baker of Lake Stevens, now an attorney and board member for the Henry M. Jackson Foundation.

* * *

Jackson vaulted from the Snohomish County prosecutor’s office to Congress in 1941 and served until his death in 1983.

Over the course of 43 years — 12 in the House of Representatives and 31 in the Senate — Jackson became one of the most influential figures walking the corridors of power in the nation’s capital.

Yet even as his stature grew and his ambitions rose, he remained tethered to Everett and connected to its people. They became his priority after he won re-election in 1982.

“Scoop told me this story,” began Ron Dotzauer of Snohomish, a political consultant who served as Jackson’s last state director. “He said, ‘I spent most of my career on defense issues, international relations and other matters. What I want to do in my last term is help my hometown grow and develop economically.’ He really wanted to focus on Everett and Snohomish County.”

One of the ways he did this was to bring people to Everett with the means to do something.

On Dec. 31, 1982, a financier and confidant of Jackson’s came to town and toured the city.

“Scoop called me and he asked me to meet with leaders of the community because he said Everett had some economic trouble and he wanted to help,” said Albert Ratner of Forest City Enterprises Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio.

Ratner said he pressed them for “the one thing that was most meaningful to have,” and he recalled Mayor Bill Moore saying it would be to bring the U.S. Navy to Everett.

“I looked to Scoop and said, ‘You can do it,’ ” said Ratner, whose firm would later invest by building Navy housing at Constitution Park in Lake Stevens.

* * *

Jackson never got to enjoy one of his greatest local successes, Naval Station Everett, because the first spade of dirt was turned a couple of years after his death.

He did get the ball rolling and kept it moving.

The U.S. Navy had been seeking a Puget Sound homeport for one of its battle groups. Everett was in the running, and Navy Secretary John Lehman, whom Jackson helped get confirmed in a controversial Senate vote, would make the decision.

One morning in August 1982, Dicks got a call from Jackson.

“He says, ‘I’m going to have a press conference with Lehman in my office in Seattle and I want you there.’ Whatever Scoop wanted, we did it,” he said.

Jackson told him it was about bringing a carrier task force to Everett.

“I said, ‘Senator, I thought we called them battle groups? Scoop said, ‘It’s an election year and we don’t want to scare anybody,’ ” Dicks recounted.

Everett was formally selected to be a homeport in 1984 with initial ground-breaking in 1987 and dedication in 1994.

“It’s there because of Scoop Jackson,” Dotzauer said.

* * *

The Boeing Co. didn’t operate in Everett when Jackson entered the U.S. Senate in 1953.

Until the 1958 release of its first commercial plane, the aerospace giant focused on producing what the military needed at facilities in King County. It was very much a Cold War company, and Jackson was very much a Cold War warrior who could be counted on to support ample federal spending on defense.

Boeing produced so many missiles and aircraft in its facilities in this state that some joked SAC stood for Seattle Air Command rather than Strategic Air Command.

By the end of the decade, Boeing had expanded into Everett, laying the foundation for its current operations, which are a fixture in the economy and culture of the city.

There’s no evidence Jackson courted Boeing, but Dotzauer said there’s no question the firm located in the senator’s hometown because of his unbending support.

It’s also not certain who first derisively dubbed Jackson as “the senator from Boeing,” or when.

Its usage dates back to the mid-’50s and the height of the Cold War, according to a biography of Jackson entitled “A Certain Democrat.”

“It was an attempt to say that I was tied up with the munitions makers, the merchants of death and all that business,” Jackson told authors William W. Prochnau and Richard W. Larsen.

* * *

There are plenty of tributes to Jackson in Everett.

His name is on a park, a plaza and high school. His bust is now on display in a park across from his home.

Yet as time passes, more and more people may wonder, exactly who was this Henry Jackson?

Paul Elvig of Everett, a longtime Republican activist, has a simple answer.

“If a kid at Jackson High School walked up to me and asked, ‘Why is this school called Jackson?’ I’d tell him it was named after a political giant,” he said.

And one who left big footprints in the hometown he loved.

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