WRHS Library Makes Leo A. Jackson Papers Available

Judge Leo A. Jackson Papers Now Available to Researches in Western Reserve Historical Society Library
Project funded by the United Black Fund now complete

Contact: Alyssa Purvis
apurvis@wrhs.org  –  (216) 721-5722 ext. 1407

CLEVELAND, OH – The Western Reserve Historical Society’s Library is pleased to announce the availability of the Leo A. Jackson Papers. The papers have been fully processed, cataloged, and are now open for research. Funded by generous support of the United Black Fund, this collection is a significant addition to the rich tapestry of African American history available at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

Serving Cleveland from the 1950s-1980s, Leo Albert Jackson (1920-1996) was an African American attorney, judge, and politician. A veteran who served in the U.S. Army, Jackson graduated from Morehouse College in 1943, and obtained a Master of Arts degree from Atlanta University in 1946.  He obtained his law degree from Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 1950. In 1957, he was elected to Cleveland City Council as the Ward 24 representative. He served there until 1970.

This collection is important in its depiction of Jackson and his experience as an African American community leader and city official. Through the papers, researchers get a strong sense of the government and political climate of Cleveland from the late 1950s-1970. Areas of interest profiled by the collection include housing and zoning concerns, racial tensions, relations with the police, the Hough Riots, and unrest in Glenville (including the Glenville Shootout), as well as how politics in the city was affected by these types of issues.

Recent national events which have (from Cleveland, to New York, to Ferguson) ignited racial tensions and brought police practices into question can also be explored through this specific collection. Researchers can follow Jackson’s career as an African American councilman and see how he applied and interpreted his experiences as he became a judge on Ohio’s Eighth District Court of Appeals in 1970. A full description and inventory of the collections is available online.

Jackson served three consecutive terms on the district court, twice as chief judge, and had a special assignment to the Ohio Supreme Court. He was active in many community organizations in the Cleveland area and received numerous awards for this work. He retired from the bench in 1987. Later, Judge Jackson would collapsed at the County Court House, and be pronounced dead at Lutheran Hospital on April 19, 1996.

During his council career representing Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, Jackson fought for civil rights, introduced gun control legislation, and was dedicated to community development in his ward. He faced controversy on racial issues as a moderate African American who did not ally with the black power movement. He was also active in the county, city, and state Democratic parties and involved in various local issues like the Cuyahoga County Charter debate.

Library Director, Richard Shrake, notes, “We are proud to provide access to the Judge Leo A. Jackson papers. This collection is important both in understanding the significance of Jackson’s influence and in helping the African American Archives continue to depict the many facets and contributions of Black History in Northeastern Ohio.”

Established in 1970, the African American Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society are an ongoing initiative to collect, preserve, and make accessible materials that profile the African American experience in Northeast Ohio.

Celeste Terry, Director of Grants at the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland states, “The United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, Inc. is proud to have provided funding for archiving the papers of Judge Leo A. Jackson. Scholars, students and lovers of history will have access to documents that are historical, and that tell a narrative of the accomplishments of African Americans that shaped Cleveland. These archives chronicle the impact and influence their lives had on improving lives in the City of Cleveland. The African American Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society is an important resource and institution in this community. It preserves and makes available a collection that details the contributions of prominent African Americans that people can learn about for many years to come.“