Author gets inside scoop on Sen. Jackson

Vermont professor’s bio is the first on local ‘hero of American politics’


Herald Writer

EVERETT — Ever wonder how the most famous politician to come out of Everett, the late Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, got his nickname?

Just check out a new book published this month, "Henry M. Jackson: A Life in Politics," by Robert G. Kaufman.

"Gert (Jackson) was the one, struck by her brother’s aptitude for avoiding household chores, who nicknamed him Scoop, after a comic-strip character adept at persuading others to do his jobs for him," Kaufman wrote.

The author was in town Friday morning for a book signing and lecture, appropriately held in the Jackson Center at Everett Community College.

In an interview afterward, Kaufman said he considers Jackson "a real hero of American politics, someone who has yet to get their due."

About six years in the making, Kaufman’s book is the first one about Jackson written since his death in 1983, and the only comprehensive, academic biography of him. Kaufman is a professor of political science at the University of Vermont.

So what interested him in a politician from the opposite corner of the country?

As a professor, Kaufman said he specializes in American foreign policy and national security, so he wanted to take a comprehensive look at the Cold War and at how the Democratic Party has changed over the years.

"That all led me to Henry Jackson," he said.

He also was surprised to discover that no one had written an academic biography of Jackson.

"I know you’re all environmentalists out here, but let me tell you, recycling didn’t start in an environmental area. We academics have been writing about the same things and the same people over and over again," Kaufman joked. "I wanted to do something different."

Kaufman was a visiting professor from June 1994 to August 1995 at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Relations, where he thoroughly researched Jackson’s life and spent many hours interviewing his family and friends in Everett and elsewhere.

Kaufman said he was surprised by "the Scandinavian reticence" he encountered here. If he’d done a biography about someone in the Boston area, he said, he’d have had hundreds of people lining up to tell stories about the person, 90 percent of them untrue. Here, he had a tough time delving beyond the standard narrative, "Scoop was just Scoop."

But the book does not focus on yarns about Jackson, anyway. It’s a serious piece that details the political life and views of the Everett statesman, whose political career spanned the terms of nine presidents.

Kaufman said he wanted the book to be independent, so it is not considered an official biography. But the Jackson family is pleased with the results.

"It was well liked and well received," said Peter Jackson, Henry M. Jackson’s son. The Jackson family "participated actively" in Kaufman’s research, Peter Jackson added, and attended a dinner and lecture by Kaufman at the University of Washington on Thursday.1

"It’s impressive, an outsider coming here to Everett to do all this research," said Chuck Woods, a local veterinarian who attended Friday’s lecture. "Scoop deserves it. The Jackson family deserves it."

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