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The Elusive Jackie Jackson : Articulate and Charismatic, She Balances Keeping Her Identity and Living in His Shadow

May 18, 1988|BOB SIPCHEN and GARRY ABRAMS | Times Staff Writers

"In our country, we sing 'God Bless America.' We place our hand on the Bible when we go to court. We speak of another force that we suggest should protect us because we are good. And we disrespect it in the same breath when we place so much emphasis on war and building weapons that will destroy other human beings . . . What is it? Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. It's a contradiction."

Jackson calls herself a traditionally religious person. On the trip to Central America, Jackson got up each morning and said her prayers, Ortiz recalled. "I'd still be sleeping and overhear her. It was very much felt. Not just ritual."

During the bitter New York primary election when Jesse Jackson was attacked by New York City Mayor Edward Koch, Robert T. Starks, who calls himself a personal and political friend of the Jacksons', said the couple "relied a great deal on their religious beliefs and convictions to pull them through."

What kind of First Lady would she be?

"She'd be the replacement of Jackie Kennedy . . . in terms of style and flair," says Brookins.

Last Sunday in Hampton, that is just how she was introduced: America's next First Lady. She stood up in the bleachers of the Hampton Virginia Coliseum, waving to the cheering graduates and alumni of this school that was founded in 1868 to educate newly freed slaves.

On the dais, Jesse Jackson raised Gertrude Brown's hand, saluting his mother-in-law for overcoming great odds to achieve her dream. It was in an electrifying speech of hope through education and family.

Then the Jacksons went back to the hotel for a reunion party with family and friends. After an hour, Jesse Jackson said a quick goodby to his wife and, flanked by Secret Service men, headed off for more campaigning.

Jacqueline Jackson returned to her family.

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