A Dallas Pastor Is Stepping Into Jesse Jackson’s Role as Leader of His Rainbow PUSH Coalition - Word&Way

A Dallas Pastor Is Stepping Into Jesse Jackson’s Role as Leader of His Rainbow PUSH Coalition

DALLAS (AP) — The civil rights group founded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the 1970s is elevating a new leader for the first time in more than 50 years, choosing a Dallas pastor as his successor to take over the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

The Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III is set to be formally installed as president and CEO in a ceremony Thursday in downtown Dallas, replacing Jackson, 82, who announced in July that he would step down.

Jackson, a powerful voice in American politics who helped guide the modern Civil Rights Movement, has dealt with several health issues in recent years and has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks at the UN for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, 2012. Photo by Eric Bridiers / Flickr

Haynes, 63, said he began working with Jackson on the transition in the fall: “I’m appreciative of what he’s poured in to me, which makes me feel like I’ve been prepared for this experience and this moment.”

“One of the things that we have shared with the staff is that we have been the beneficiary of the dynamism, the once-in-a-generation charisma of Rev. Jackson, and now what we want to do is institutionalize it, as it were, make the organization as dynamic and charismatic as Rev. Jackson,” Haynes said.

“Whereas he did the work of 50 people, we need 50 people to do the kind of work that Rev. Jackson did,” Haynes said.

Haynes, who has been senior pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas for over 40 years, will remain in Dallas and continue in that role as he leads the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. He said his work at the justice-oriented church will serve as an expansion of the work done by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which will still be based in Chicago.

Jackson, a protege of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., broke with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1971 to form Operation PUSH, which initially stood for People United to Save Humanity. The organization was later renamed the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The group’s work ranges from promoting minority hiring in the corporate world to conducting voter registration drives in communities of color.

Before Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Jackson had been the most successful Black presidential candidate. He won 13 primaries and caucuses in his push for the 1988 Democratic nomination, which went to Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Haynes said he first met Jackson when he was a college student in 1981. “He comes to campus as this larger-than-life, charismatic, dynamic figure, and immediately I was awestruck,” Haynes said.

He was inspired by Jackson’s runs for president in 1984 and 1988, and after the two connected in the 1990s, Jackson began inviting him to speak at Rainbow PUSH.

On Friday, Rainbow PUSH will host a social justice conference at Paul Quinn College, a historically Black college in Dallas. Jackson is expected to attend both the ceremony Thursday and the conference Friday.

“I’m just very excited about the future,” Haynes said. “I’m standing on some great shoulders.”