By James B. Kelleher,
Jesse Jackson Jr. is the namesake son of one of the most prominent black men in the United States, a progressive-minded activist whose ascent into public life prompted talk of a new era of African-American political power.
In the early years, speculation swirled around the Democratic representative to the U.S. House and his appetite and ambition, almost all of it positive. Would he be the next mayor of Chicago? The next U.S. senator from Illinois?
Two years after he was elected to Congress, Newsweek magazine asked if the then 32-year-old Democrat would one day capture the prize that eluded his father, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and become the first Black president.
The sky’s-the-limit speculation didn’t appear to unnerve Jackson. “I grew up in a house with great expectations,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1995.
In recent years, the expectations withered and the speculation took a more sinister turn, especially after Jackson’s name was linked to the political corruption scandal that brought down former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
In recent weeks, it was rumored and reported that Jackson would resign from the House in a plea deal with prosecutors.
On Wednesday, the 47-year-old’s political career came to a halt. Weighed down by mental illness and the investigation, Jackson submitted his resignation to House Speaker John Boehner.
His career was book-ended by scandal. Jackson was sent to Congress in December 1995 after winning a special election to replace Representative Mel Reynolds, a Democrat forced to resign after he was convicted of sexual assault and other charges.