The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., the longtime civil rights leader and former Democratic presidential candidate, plans to step down as president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the organization he founded, the group said in a statement Friday.
Mr Jackson, 81, who has had several health problems in recent years and announced in 2017 that he had Parkinson’s disease, spoke about the decision on the organisation’s weekly radio show on Saturday, Fox 32 Chicago reported.
“I’ll be transitioning pretty soon,” Mr. Jackson said, according to the news station. “I’ve been doing these things for 64 years. I was 18 years old. I will get a new president for Rainbow PUSH Coalition.”
He said he will work with the new president and the board through the change. “I want to see us grow and prosper,” he said, adding: “We have the ability to build on what we’ve established over the years.”
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition said in a statement that a successor to Mr. Jackson would be introduced at his annual conventionwhich takes place this weekend in Chicago and includes a celebration of the 35th anniversary of his 1988 presidential campaign.
Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to address the convention on Sunday.
In the statement announcing Mr. Jackson’s decision to step down, the organization said: “His commitment is unwavering, and he will elevate his life’s work by teaching ministers how to fight for social justice and continue the freedom movement.”
Mr. Jackson has been a stalwart figure in the civil rights movement since he was a teenager in the 1960s. He worked with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988.
He started Operation PUSH, or People United to Save Humanity, in 1971, with the aim of improving the economic conditions of Black communities across the United States. The group later changed the word “Conserve” to “Serve”.
The other group was the Rainbow Coalition, which Mr. Jackson started in 1984 after his first presidential campaign. This group opposed President Reagan’s domestic spending cuts and sought greater investments in American cities, particularly in minority communities.
In 2017, Mr. Jackson announced that he had Parkinson’s disease. He said he and his family noticed three years earlier that he was having increasing difficulty performing routine tasks.
In early 2021, he underwent gallbladder surgery after experiencing “abdominal discomfort”, a spokesperson told The Associated Press. Later that year, Mr Jackson and his wife, Jacqueline, were hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus.
One of his sons, representative Jonathan L. Jackson, Democrat of Illinois, told The Chicago Sun-Times that there was “a determination made that in his current health and condition that he has appointed a successor and will formally announce it on Sunday.”
He said his father’s Parkinson’s was “progressive” and he used a wheelchair.
Mr. Jackson, his son said, “was always on the scene of justice and never stopped fighting for civil rights,” and that would be “his mark in history.”