This week the City of Malden held a festive rededication event formally naming the City Council Chambers at 215 Pleasant Street in honor of former City Councillor Herbert L. Jackson. The public event fittingly marked the first celebration held inside the Council Chambers and lobby of the new building. A contingent of Herb Jackson’s family including his daughter Lee Jackson Van Allen and his son Herbert Jackson, Jr. were in attendance. City Council President Neal Anderson served as emcee, Mayor Gary Christenson brought greetings from the City and Lee Jackson Van Allen offered remarks about her father and his legacy. Senator Jason Lewis and State Representatives Steve Ultrino and Paul Donato were in attendance as were many former and current City Councillors and School Committee members. Malden singer Lydia Harrell impressed with her rendition of the National Anthem and later closed out the program with Lift Every Voice and Sing. City Councillor-At-Large Craig Spadafora welcomed current elected officials while City Clerk (and former City Councillor) Greg Lucey welcomed former elected officials in attendance which included his father Mayor Ed Lucey.
The Malden Step Club, under the direction of Barbara Scibelli provided an outstanding performance in tribute to Herb’s legacy. Former City officials mingled with current elected officials and the Jackson family and caught up before and after the ceremony. “This celebration was about honoring a person in Malden’s strong past who broke so many barriers during his life,” said Mayor Christenson. “We not only reflected on Herbert Jackson’s legacy, but had the opportunity to remind future generations of a leader who truly made a difference.”
“I couldn’t have been more pleased with our opportunity to once again honor this great statesman,” said City Council President Neal Anderson. “He was a fine example of what it takes to be a true public servant. His example is a great roadmap for us all to follow.”
To the delight of the Jackson family, Mayor Christenson announced that plans were in the works for a memorial square to be dedicated in honor of Herbert Jackson’s father, John T. Jackson, at the site of his cleaning and tailoring shop on Ferry Street at Centre Street. Both John T. Jackson and Herb’s mother, Araminta Jefferson Jackson were born enslaved in Athens, Georgia. John T. Jackson was a master tailor who taught tailoring at Biddle University, an historically black university in Charlotte, North Carolina, (now Johnson C. Smith University). In the 1890s, John moved his family north to Malden, Massachusetts for a freer life and better educational opportunities for his children.
About Herbert L. Jackson
Herbert Loren Jackson was born in Malden on October 20, 1908, the thirteenth (13th) child of John T. Jackson and Araminta Jefferson Jackson. Affectionately known as “Herbie” to all, he attended Faulkner Elementary School and Malden High School, where he was elected president of his graduating class in 1927 - the first African American to be elected president of a Malden High School graduating class.
Although Herbie’s parents wanted him to study the ministry, he wanted to pursue a career in theater and entertainment. Herbie studied public speaking at Emerson School of Oratory (now Emerson College); law at Suffolk School of Law (now Suffolk University Law School); and drama at Massachusetts School of Art (now Massachusetts College of Art and Design). Although Herbie did not graduate from either of these schools, he benefited greatly throughout his life from his studies at these institutions of higher learning.
As a young man about town, Herbie joined the Federal Theater which was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and a Boston theater group called Boston Players. Herbie received high accolades for his performances as an actor and master of ceremonies for many jazz concerts held in the Greater Boston area. Herbie also promoted several jazz band performances in the Greater Boston area.
In 1935, Herbie married Doris Pope of Everett, Massachusetts, whom he met in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, when he was visiting her family’s inn, Shearer Cottage. Soon after their marriage, Herbie opened a cleaning and tailoring business, “The House of Jackson,” which was located on 517 Main Street in Malden. The couple bought their first home located at 267 Salem Street in Malden, where they raised their three children, Gail, Lee, and Herbert, Jr. The Jackson family lived at 267 Salem Street for more than fifty (50) years.
Doris encouraged Herbie to enter the Malden political arena, where he was continually elected to public office by a predominantly white electorate. Herbie was the first African American to be elected to the Malden City Council and enjoyed a distinguished 30 year career in public service. Herbie was first elected Councillor of Ward 7 from 1945 to 1947; Councillor of Ward 5 from 1947 to 1951; and Council-at-Large from 1965 to 1975. He served as president of the Malden City Council four (4) terms during his political career. Furthermore, Herbie was the first African American elected as State Representative from Malden, serving from 1950 to 1954. The City of Malden achieved national prominence with the election of Herbie as a Massachusetts District Governor of the Lions Club, the first African American elected to this post in the United States. Herbie was a 33rd Degree Mason and member of Boston’s Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
Herbie passed away peacefully on Wednesday, September 6, 1978. His leadership, vision, compassion, and commitment to improving the quality of life for his constituents earned him the sincere respect and admiration of the people of Malden. The former City Hall Council Chambers at 200 Pleasant Street was named in Herbie’s honor on December 16, 1978. City Council President, Neal Anderson, and the Municipal Building Committee responsible for the new Malden City Hall project at 215 Pleasant Street have ensured that the new Malden City Council Chambers will continue to be named the Herbert L. Jackson Council Chambers.
Pictured (from left):
City Councillors Paul Condon and Peg Crowe, Herbert L. Jackson, Jr., Kendall Van Allen, Kennedi Van Allen (great-grandchildren of Herbert L. Jackson, Sr.) Mayor Gary Christenson, Angela Rue-Van Allen (Lee's daughter-in-law), David Van Allen, Jr. (Lee's son), Lee Jackson Van Allen (Herb Jackson's daughter), Loren Van Allen (Lee's daughter), City Council President Neal Anderson, State Representative Paul Donato, City Councillor-At-Large Craig Spadafora City Councillor Jadeane Sica, State Representative Steve Ultrino, State Senator Jason Lewis, City Councillors Barbara Murphy, Amanda Linehan and Steve Winslow