Longtime Houston Baptist Minister C. L. Jackson, Known to Presidents and Governors, Dies at 80

Longtime Baptist minister Charles L. Jackson drew praise for having "an independent mind." Photo: Carlos Antonio Rios, Staff
Longtime Baptist minister Charles L. Jackson drew praise for having “an independent mind.”
Photo: Carlos Antonio Rios, Staff

The Rev. C.L. Jackson, longtime pastor of the domed Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Fifth Ward, was known as one of the old bulls of Houston’s aging guard of black, Baptist preachers.

A registered Republican, he also was his own man. When Minister Louis Farrakhan was making a stop in Houston ahead of the 1995 Million Man March, thousands showed up at Pleasant Grove because Jackson was the first to agree to host the Nation of Islam leader.

Jackson also traveled to several African countries with President Bill Clinton, was appointed to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice by Gov. Rick Perry and took the microphone at conservative radio host Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in 2010 at the Lincoln Memorial.

His Christian evangelistic ministry spanned more than 50 years and from the streets and prisons to published books and radio broadcasts. This pillar of Fifth Ward died Sunday. He was 80.

One enduring symbol of his life and his salvation story was a dump truck, which was depicted on the pulpit he shared with his son for the last 17 years.

“My father used to be employed by Houston Lighting and Power. That’s long before Reliant. He worked as a common laborer,” the Rev. Sheldon L. Jackson said Tuesday. “At that time, no black man was allowed to ride in the cab of the truck. They all had to ride on the back of the truck, which was a dump truck. That’s where he asked God to save him.”

Charles Lewis Jackson was born on March 4, 1936, in Goodrich, a tiny town about 70 miles northeast of Houston near Livingston. A rope that was hung from a bridge where black men were lynched convinced his parents to move to Houston when Charles was about 2, Sheldon Jackson said.

Pleasant Grove, where his mother’s brother was pastor, was the only church where Jackson ever had a membership. Upon the death of his uncle, the Rev. A.A. McCardell Sr., the church chose him as successor in 1969. His son joined him in leadership in 1999.

“He was pastor until the day he died. We just had two pastors,” Sheldon Jackson, 61, said with a laugh. “I did the work. He was the boss.”

He felt a privilege and responsibility in leading an institution founded in 1872 by people recently emancipated from enslavement.

The Pleasant Grove structure, built in the late 1970s from offering-plate donations during an era of red-lining where bank financing for black churches was nearly impossible, stood as a beacon of community self-reliance. The building, which seats 5,000, can be seen by the larger community as well as from the tangle of highways leading into the east side of downtown Houston.

“It proved that anything can happen. Even in the ghetto – even when financial institutions won’t back our visions and dreams – God can make things happen,” Sheldon Jackson said.

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SOURCE: Houston Chronicle
Cindy George