[Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 24 (Thursday, February 12, 2015)]
[Pages H987-H988]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from 
Alabama (Ms. Sewell) for 5 minutes.
  Ms. SEWELL of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, today, I rise to celebrate the 
life and legacy of Jimmie Lee Jackson.
  Jimmie Lee Jackson was one of the foot soldiers who died to ensure 
that all Americans have the fundamental right to vote.
  This 26-year-old Marion, Alabama, native was brutally killed at the 
hands of an Alabama State trooper on February 18, 1965, after attending 
a voting rights rally while trying to protect his mother and his 82-
year-old grandfather.
  The State trooper confronted the family at Mack's Cafe in Marion and 
shot Jimmie Lee Jackson at gunpoint range for simply shielding his 
family from the intimidation and retributions being carried out by law 
  And to think that this occurred because of the audacity of this young 
man and his family to peacefully protest for their constitutional 
rights, which led to his brutal murder at the hands of law enforcement.
  It was the senseless murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson that served as a 
catalyst for the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama. Jimmie Lee 
Jackson deserves to have his proper place in American history as a true 
agent of change.
  Likewise, the city of Marion is, rightly, the starting point of the 
historic road to voter equality that led marchers from Selma to 
Montgomery. I have sponsored efforts and look forward to the National 
Park Service adding the city of Marion to the historic trail from Selma 
to Montgomery.

[[Page H988]]

  The senseless killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson shocked the consciousness 
of the American public and galvanized local leaders to be even more 
resolved in their fight against the inequalities in voting.
  Who was to blame for the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson? Dr. Martin 
Luther King professed, as he eulogized Jimmie Lee Jackson at his 
funeral, we are all to blame for his murder. Dr. King said it best:

       A State trooper pointed the gun, but he did not act alone. 
     He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff who 
     practices lawlessness in the name of law.
       He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every 
     politician, from Governors on down, who has fed his 
     constituent the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of 
       He was murdered by the timidity of a Federal Government 
     that would spend millions of dollars a day to keep troops in 
     South Vietnam and cannot protect the rights of its own 
     citizens seeking the right to vote.
       He was murdered by the cowardice of every Negro who 
     passively accepts the evils of segregation and stands on the 
     sidelines in the struggle for justice.

  Justice should be blind, Mr. Speaker, but in many cases it is not. 
Everyone knew who killed Jimmie Lee Jackson, but it wasn't until 40 
years later, when Michael Jackson, Dallas County's first Black district 
attorney, reopened the investigation, that the wheels of justice slowly 
began to turn.
  Yesterday, this august body unanimously passed H.R. 431, a bill that 
would award a Congressional Gold Medal to the foot soldiers who 
participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final march 
from Selma to Montgomery. It is past due, Mr. Speaker, that these brave 
men and women take their proper place as agents of change in American 
  While Jimmie Lee Jackson did not live to participate in the march 
from Selma to Montgomery, he was there in spirit. It was his spirit 
that gave strength to the weak, that gave courage to the scared, and 
that gave hope to the hopeless.
  To his family, I say this Nation owes his family a debt of gratitude 
which we can never repay. My hope is that this national recognition of 
the significance of the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson will spur a renewed 
commitment in all of us to continue to fight for justice and equality 
for all.
  We, the beneficiaries of that struggle, must continue his fight. We 
must continue to stand together. We must continue to be united in the 
fight for justice everywhere it is needed. Jimmie Lee Jackson did not 
stand on the sidelines waiting patiently for justice to come, nor 
should we.
  Dr. King once said:

       If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If 
     you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to 
     keep moving forward.

  We must continue to stand together because our greatest and biggest 
fights are yet to come. We still need Federal oversight to ensure that 
every eligible voter in these United States is able to cast their 
ballot and that every vote matters.
  Jimmie Lee Jackson recognized the importance of the vote. He 
recognized the power of the ballot box. We owe it to ourselves and to 
the memory of Jimmie Lee Jackson to continue his fight.