Jackson, Andrew (1767–1845) Born on the frontier between North and South Carolina, Jackson lost his mother and his brother in the American Revolution, went on to become a lawyer, made and lost a fortune, killed a man in an 1806 duel in defense of his wife’s honor, became a politician, was the principal victor against the Red Stick Creeks in the Creek War, and won a glorious victory at the Battle of New Orleans (1815) in the War of 1812. Defeated by John Quincy Adams in an 1824 run for the White House, he was elected four years later and introduced an unprecedented degree of egalitarian—if sometimes raucous—democracy. It was, however, Jackson, too, who promoted the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which uprooted many thousands of Indians living east of the Mississippi, exiling them to arid lands west of the river. The Cherokee called this long, often lethal march the “Trail of Tears.”
Jackson, Helen Hunt (1830–1885) Jackson was a popular and prolific novelist, who was moved by the plight of the Indians, which she saw firsthand after she moved with her husband to Colorado in 1875. The result was a historical study called A Century of Dishonor (1881), which examined and condemned federal Indian policy. She was appointed to a federal commission to investigate conditions among Indians living on the western missions. This inspired her best-known novel, Ramona (1884), which was effective in raising public consciousness about the mistreatment of Native Americans.
Jackson, Jesse Louis (1941– ) Born into a poor African-American family in Greenville, South Carolina, Jackson earned a scholarship to the University of Illinois during 1959–1960, completed his undergraduate degree in sociology in 1964 at the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina, then did postgraduate work at Chicago Theological Seminary, becoming ordained as a Baptist minister in 1968. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackson started Operation Breadbasket in Chicago in 1966 and, in 1971, Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), an organization to promote black self-reliance. A major figure in the civil rights movement both before and after King’s assassination in 1968, Jackson led a voter registration program that helped elect Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983. From this point on, Jackson earned a reputation as an influential political figure on the national as well as international scene.
Jackson, Maynard (1938–2003) Jackson was a Dallas-born lawyer and politician, whose election as mayor of Atlanta in 1973 made him the first African American chief executive of a large southern city. He served three terms—during 1974–1982 and 1990–1994—presiding over the spectacular growth of the South’s major metropolis.
Jackson, Michael (1958– ) Jackson entered show business as the youngest—and most talented—of the Jackson 5 (consisting of the five Jackson brothers), which shot to stardom in 1969 and reigned supreme on the pop charts through about 1975. Jackson had his first solo hit in 1979—the album Off the Wall—and by the 1980s was unchallenged as the most popular entertainer in the world: the “King of Pop.” His success declined in the early 1990s as his appearance and behavior became increasingly bizarre. In 1993, he was accused of child molestation by a 13-year-old boy who had been a guest at Neverland, Jackson’s Los Angeles compound. In 2005, he was tried on new child molestation charges in California and, to the surprise of many, acquitted.
Jackson, Thomas “Stonewall” (1824–1863) When his bold stand at the First Battle of Bull Run turned the tide toward a Confederate victory, this Virginia general earned the sobriquet “Stonewall” and emerged in successive actions as the most innovative and skilled tactician of the Civil War. In the Shenandoah Valley, he was able to use a minimal number of men to pin down huge Union forces, and at Chancellorsville he was instrumental in achieving a crushing Union defeat. Wounded by friendly fire on May 2, 1863, he died eight days later. Robert E. Lee declared: “I have lost my right arm.”
James, Frank (1843–1915) Raised with his brother on a Missouri farm, James joined William Quantrill’s notorious band of Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. After the war, he and his brother formed an outlaw gang, robbing banks, stores, stagecoaches, and trains from 1866 until 1881, when Jesse was killed. Frank surrendered a few months later, but no jury would convict him. Ruthless though they were, he and his brother had attained the status of latter-day Robin Hoods. Frank retired quietly, as the legend of him and his brother continued to grow.
James, Henry (1843–1916) Henry James was the son of a theologian and the brother of philosopher-psychologist William James. He devoted his life to the writing of fiction, creating fascinating variations on a single question: What happens when the exuberant if clumsy innocence of the New World meets the sophistication and corruption of the Old? The exploration of this theme led to the creation of complex and infinitely nuanced novels examining culture, society, and human emotion. A literary craftsman of painstaking skill, his example inspired generations of American novelists after him. James lived much of his life in Europe and became a British subject shortly before his death.
James, Jesse (1847–1882) Like his older brother Frank, Jesse James joined a Confederate guerrilla gang during the Civil War. After the war, he teamed up with Frank as co-chief of what became the most notorious outlaw gang in the American West. During its long criminal career, the James Gang chiefly robbed banks, stagecoaches, and railroads, gaining a reputation as latter-day Robin Hoods—even though, after robbing the rich, they by no means gave to the poor. The gang’s career ended when Jesse, living incognito in St. Joseph, Missouri, as “Thomas Howard,” was shot in the back of the head by a new gang member, Robert Ford, who betrayed him for the reward money. Ford was publicly castigated, whereas Jesse (and, to a lesser extent, Frank) was elevated to the pantheon of American folk heroes.
James, William (1842–1910) A pioneering Harvard psychologist, James emerged as the nation’s leading philosopher when he published in 1907 Pragmatism: A New Name for Old Ways of Thinking, which proposed that the meaning as well as the truth of any idea is a function of its practical outcome. Pragmatism was born of an American culture of action and enterprise and, in turn, exerted a major intellectual influence on subsequent American thought and ethics.
Jaworski, Leon (1905–1982) Born to Polish and Austrian immigrants, Jaworski was a prominent Texas attorney who, on November 1, 1973, was appointed to replace Archibald Cox after Cox had been fired at the behest of President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Jaworski pursued the Watergate investigation vigorously, engaging in a protracted constitutional battle with the White House to secure tape recordings of Oval Office conferences that implicated the president in illegal surveillance and the illegal attempt to cover up various covert White House operations.
Jay, John (1745–1829) This founding father became the first chief justice of the Supreme Court (1789–1795) and, as such, established many judicial precedents that shaped the laws of the new United States as well as the nature and function of the high court. Jay was also a great diplomat of the early republic. He was one of the commissioners who negotiated the treaty that ended the American Revolution and won American independence. Later, in 1794, he negotiated the “Jay Treaty” with Britain, resolving lingering disputes and establishing a basis for commerce between the two nations.
Jeffers, Robinson (1887–1962) Jeffers received a diverse education in literature, medicine, and forestry, but when he came into an inheritance that gave him financial independence, he became a poet. His work drew on the meeting of land and sea in northern California to present a strongly imagistic vision of pantheistic nature, in comparison to which all else—including human life—is ephemeral, frenetic, and futile.
Jefferson, Thomas (1743–1826) A driving force behind the American Revolution, Jefferson was a renaissance man of the early republic: a naturalist, an inventor, an architect (who designed his magnificent Virginia home, Monticello, as well as the original buildings of the University of Virginia, of which he was also principal founder), and author. He created for his native Virginia a groundbreaking statute of religious freedom, and it was he who wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. He served as the United States’ first secretary of state (1789–1794), its second vice president (1797–1801), and its third president (1801–1809). As the founder of the Democratic-Republican Party, he championed the rights of the individual over the power of central government. His Louisiana Purchase added a vast western realm to the new nation, into which he sent Lewis and Clark to explore. He was perhaps the most radical of the founding fathers, the chief political philosopher of individual freedom as the heart and soul of the American Revolution.
Jenny, William LeBaron (1832–1907) Jenny was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard Scientific School and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His ten-story Home Insurance Building, built in Chicago in 1883, was the first structure that used a steel skeleton framework to support both the floors and the exterior walls and is therefore considered the world’s first skyscraper. This architectural form would become a defining American building style.
Johnson, Andrew (1808–1875) Johnson grew up in poverty in Tennessee and rose to become a U.S. representative (1843–1853), governor of Tennessee (1853–1857), and a U.S. senator (1856–1862). He opposed secession and was alone among the Southern senators in remaining in the Senate and refusing to join the Confederacy. President Lincoln named him military governor of Tennessee, and in 1864 chose him as his running mate. On Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, Johnson succeeded to office. His advocacy of lenient treatment of the South after the Civil War angered Radical Republicans in Congress and precipitated his impeachment in 1868. He was acquitted by a single vote in the Senate and served out his term virtually powerless.
Johnson, James Weldon (1871–1938) Trained as a schoolteacher and lawyer, Johnson collaborated with his composer brother, John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954), on many popular songs, including “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which became a kind of African-American anthem. In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Johnson U.S. consul to Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, and in 1909 he became consul in Corinto, Nicaragua, serving until 1914. His 1912 novel, Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man,became a classic of African-American literature and was an acute analysis of race relations in the United States. Johnson was a major figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), published his own poetry, and compiled major anthologies of African-American poetry and spirituals. His poetic masterpiece is God’s Trombones (1927), poems written in the form of black dialect sermons.
Johnson, Lyndon B. (1908–1973) LBJ was a U.S. Senator from Texas for a dozen years before he became President John F. Kennedy’s vice president. During his vice presidential term, he was instrumental in launching America’s manned space program. He became president when JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963, and sought to continue and vastly expand Kennedy’s social initiatives in a program LBJ called the Great Society. LBJ signed into law the epoch-making Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) and introduced Medicaid, Medicare, and other social welfare initiatives. His dramatic expansion of the Vietnam War drained much of the funding from the Great Society and deeply divided the nation. Having been elected to a term in his own right in 1964, he was eligible to run again in 1968, but, recognizing himself as having become a divisive force, he chose not to. In 1969, when he left office, the Vietnam War remained unresolved.
Johnson, Philip (1906–2005) Johnson was one of America’s most influential architects, whose designs helped define the modern cityscape. He was an exponent of the so-called International Style, originated by Mies van der Rohe, which featured elegant minimalist lines, with a generous use of glass. Beginning in the 1950s, Johnson incorporated historical allusions and curvilinear forms in his work, and by the 1980s—with the American Telephone and Telegraph headquarters in New York City (1982)—he had become a defining architect of the more playful postmodern style.
Jolliet, Louis (1645– after 1700) The French-Canadian explorer Jolliet (in company with the Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette) set out in search of a water passage across the continent. Jolliet thought he had discovered it when he reached the Mississippi River, which he and Marquette explored from its confluence with the Wisconsin River to the mouth of the Arkansas River at the location of present-day Arkansas City, Arkansas. At this point, based on his own observations and reports from local Quapaw Indians, a disappointed Jolliet concluded that the river flowed south into the Gulf of Mexico and not west to the Pacific. Nevertheless, Jolliet and Marquette had paved the way for the French colonization of America between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains.
Jones, Christopher (1570–1621) Born in Harwich, Essex, England, Jones was captain and quarter-owner of the Mayflower, in which he transported the Pilgrims to America, landing them at the place they came to call Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. The Pilgrims may have bribed him to land so far north, beyond what they saw as the meddlesome jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, which had financed their voyage.
Jones, Jim (1931–1978) Jones became a preacher in the 1950s and founded the People’s Temple first in Indianapolis and then San Francisco. His devoted followers developed into a cult, and in 1977 moved with Jones to the jungle of Guyana, where they lived communally in a settlement dubbed Jonestown—with Jim Jones as their absolute leader. Friends and family of some of the cult members became concerned for the welfare of their loved ones, and, in November 1978, U.S. Representative Leo Ryan led a fact-finding mission to Jonestown to investigate charges of human rights abuses there. Ryan left the compound, with 20 Temple members, after an attempt on his life. At the local airstrip, however, cultists gunned down Ryan, an NBC reporter and cameraman, a newspaper photographer, and one of the defecting cultists. Others were wounded. Immediately after this attack, on November 18, 1978, most of the Peoples Temple cultists followed Jones in committing mass suicide by drinking poison (Jones shot himself). A total of 914 died.
Jones, John Paul (1747–1792) Jones was a Scots sailor and ship’s master, who, after killing a mutinous crew member, fled to America in 1775 and, at the outbreak of the revolution, joined the Continental Navy. He raided British commerce, capturing numerous ships. On September 23, 1779, he attacked a large merchant fleet under escort by the British warships Serapis and Countess of Scarborough. Outgunned, Jones fought a 3.5-hour battle, replying to a British surrender demand with “I have not yet begun to fight!” He captured Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough, but lost his own Bonhomme Richard.
Jones, Mary Harris (“Mother Jones”) (1830–1930) Jones was an Irish immigrant whose husband died in an 1867 epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee. Resettled in Chicago, Jones lost all that she owned in the great Chicago fire of 1871. The Knights of Labor came to her aid, and she soon became active in this early labor union. She became famous as “Mother Jones,” a dynamic labor organizer—especially for the United Mine Workers—exhorting men everywhere to “Join the union, boys.” In 1898, she became a founder of the Social Democratic Party and, in 1905, of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Jones, Robert Trent “Bobby” (1902–1971) Atlanta native “Bobby” Jones was the first golfer to achieve the Grand Slam, winning four major tournaments in a year. His record from 1923 through 1930 was 13 championships in the four major tournaments of his era. Jones never turned pro.
Joplin, Scott (1868–1917) Joplin was an African-American pianist and composer, who was repeatedly frustrated in his efforts to be recognized as a “serious” composer, but who created classic piano rags of great beauty, including “Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer.” His ragtime opera of 1911, Treemonisha, was not performed until 1972, long after his death. Ragtime, a highly syncopated precursor to jazz, fell out of favor until its revival in the 1970s—when Joplin’s contribution to American music became widely recognized.
Joseph, Chief (circa 1840–1904) Faced with removal from their homeland in Washington, a faction of the Nez Perce followed Chief Joseph for more than three months (June 17–October 5, 1877) in a trek of more than 1,000 miles through the rugged landscape of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, evading—often defeating—pursuing troops who greatly outnumbered them. Joseph finally surrendered at the Battle of Bear Paw Mountain in Montana, on October 5, 1877, delivering to General Nelson A. Miles a speech that has come to symbolize the nobility of Native American resignation in the face of overwhelming force: “Hear me, my chiefs; my heart is sick and sad. From where the Sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
Judah, Theodore Dehone (1826–1863) Judah was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was trained as an engineer. He built the Niagara Gorge Railroad and engineered eastern canals before he was hired in 1854 to survey a railroad near Sacramento, California. Believing it possible to extend the line across the Sierras, he promoted the idea to financiers, who formed the Central Pacific Railroad, with Judah as its chief engineer. When his financiers vacillated, Judah traveled to the East Coast to raise capital on his own, but succumbed en route to yellow fever. His early efforts were the beginning of the Central Pacific-Union Pacific, the transcontinental railroad finally completed in 1869.