A Dallas pastor steps into Jesse Jackson’s role as leader of his Rainbow PUSH Coalition

Jan 31, 2024, 9:07 PM | Updated: Feb 1, 2024, 10:32 pm

DALLAS (AP) — The civil rights group founded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the 1970s got a new leader for the first time in more than 50 years as a Dallas pastor became his successor at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition on Thursday evening.

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

“I stand not in his shoes but on his shoulders, and because I stand on his shoulders, I hope you stand with me,” Haynes told those gathered for the over three-hour ceremony.

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. Jackson, who uses a wheelchair, didn’t speak at the ceremony but was in attendance. As Haynes took the stage he shook Jackson’s hand and bowed.

Speakers included the Rev. Al Sharpton, who told those gathered that they “need a fighter” like Haynes.

Haynes, 63, said in an interview before the ceremony that 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 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.

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A Dallas pastor steps into Jesse Jackson’s role as leader of his Rainbow PUSH Coalition