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a mourner salutes fred jackson.

Goodbye to you, Fred Jackson

on September 16, 2011

Fred Jackson’s final send-off was a celebration.

The outpouring of emotion and thanks to one of Richmond’s most revered figures Friday at least matched that of a service the night before in a North Richmond church, but the funeral in the Richmond Municipal Auditorium drew an even larger crowd.

Nearly 400 friends, family, dignitaries and well-wishers turned out for the midday service, which was a medley of love and music and anecdotes that all agreed would have induced Jackson’s trademark wide grin.

“I get chills just thinking about him,” said Congressman George Miller (D-Martinez), who became friends with Jackson over the years while working on countless community projects together. Miller called Jackson a “citizen in the classical sense of the word,” and said his tireless service and relentless prodding held elected officials accountable and pushed them to new heights.

congressman george miller

George Miller delivers remarks about friend and partner Fred Jackson. (photo by Robert Rogers)

“He didn’t cut you much slack,” Miller said, drawing laughs from the crowd. “Oh, he’d tell you about high office.”

Jackson, 73, died Sept. 8 at the Vale Healthcare Center in San Pablo after a long battle with cancer. On Thursday, many of the same people paid tribute to Jackson as his body laid in an open casket in North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church.

On Friday, the City Hall complex came alive with incoming traffic just after 10 a.m. Fire Chief Michael Banks, who attended the services, estimated the crowd to be between 300 and 400 people.

In addition to Miller, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, County Supervisor John Gioia, State Senator Loni Hancock and Councilmembers Corky Booze and Jovanka Beckles were in attendance.

Gioia, who this week posted to his youtube channel a decade-old news clip featuring Jackson, strung together a series of anecdotes about the work of the late community leader. Gioia noted that county and city officials had no trouble agreeing on naming North Richmond’s biggest street after Jackson, “Fred Jackson Way.” And there was something to the name, too.

“It’s Fred Jackson’s ‘Way’ that made a difference in people’s lives,” Gioia said.

Barbara Becnel, who worked with Jackson at Neighborhood House of North Richmond, a historic African-American run social service nonprofit, focused on Jackson’s strength, which she said could be overlooked given his unwavering gentleness.

“Fred was a very powerful man,” Becnel said.

Becnel, who co-authored books with former death-row inmate Stanley “Tookie” Williams, said she grew disillusioned after Williams’ execution in 2006.

“Fred really worked with me for years to get me back,” Becnel said. “My spiritual brother helped me get back on my spiritual path.”

Rev. Raymond Landry said Jackson’s work in the community will live on. Echoing the sentiments of baseball player and humanitarian Jackie Robinson, who famously said that the measure of a life is its impact on other lives, Landry said Jackson packed his 73 years full of service.

“It wasn’t a wasted life,” Landry said.

The event was punctuated with music, including the Jackson-penned song “Chains,” which was performed with power-vocal aplomb by singer Robin Hodge-Williams.

But the story from the start Friday was Jackson and his innumerable acts of service.

Hancock recalled the hunger strike Jackson led in Sacramento in protest of cuts to Contra Costa County schools, calling his exhausting protest at an advanced age “extraordinary.”

Other speakers talked about how Jackson was unafraid to walk the streets anywhere in North Richmond, and felt love everywhere he went. If there was one thing Jackson wasn’t willing to give, it was control over his car stereo – he was very particular about his music.

But in the end, the overall theme that emerged during all the recent celebrations of Jackson’s life has been his ability to bridge differences and bring groups together.

Jackson was always a man for all conditions, his admirers said.

“He knew the foolishness of power, but he also knew the power of kindness,” Miller said.

| Other RichmondConfidential coverage of Fred Jackson|
| A news report that features Fred Jackson from year 2000.

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