When he started his first job out of law school at the Denver District Attorney’s Office in 1970, he said he had a four-inch afro, a new purple Dodge Challenger with a black racing stripe, and several expensive three-piece suits.
“You guessed it, ‘The Mod Squad’ was my favorite TV show,” he said, laughing.
At the time, he and other new prosecutors were photographed and appeared in a Denver newspaper. A Colorado Supreme Court justice later commented in an editorial that his appearance did not represent the dignity of the office of the Denver District Attorney.
“I guess he was talking about my hair and not my color,” he said.
At the time, Jackson was the only black prosecutor in the state. In rebuttal, his mother, Nancy, wrote the justice a letter praising her son’s abilities. That justice invited Jackson and his mother to lunch, which lead to a friendship.
Still, the landscape for lawyers of color was different. Jackson helped found the Samy Cary Bar Association, an African-American legal association, in 1971. When it was formed, there were only 15 black lawyers in Colorado, Jackson said.
“We came together to create a bar and expand our influence and to help provide opportunities for black lawyers and lawyers of color—not through separation, but through inclusiveness,” he said.
He also was a founding member of the Sam Cary Scholarship Endowment Fund, which provides scholarships to law students at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver, and he was the first black member of the Denver Athletic Club.
Jackson became a partner at DiManna & Jackson in 1976. Though there were jokes that Jackson took the position at a salary less than their legal secretary, he said money wasn’t the most important thing.
“What was important was the opportunity to own my own business,” he said.
Joking aside, CBA President David L. Masters said it’s important to recognize the achievements of Jackson: “A man who is dedicated to the legal profession, the administration of justice, and the community as a whole.”
Jackson chairs the Delta Eta Boule Foundation, which provides scholarships to Denver high school graduates. As an advocate for youth, he has chaired Northeast Denver Youth Services, which offers recreational and educational opportunities. He also has been involved with the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, the United Negro College Fund, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 100 Black Men of Denver, Inc., Beckwourth Outdoors, and the Sixteenth of May Foundation.
He has been honored in the past by the Sam Cary Bar Association with King Trimble Life Time Achievement Award in 2006, and by the University of Colorado with the William Lee Knous Award in 2010, the Norlin Award in 2008, and the Order of Coif Award in 2003.
More than 400 people attended the Bar Fellows Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Denver to celebrate Jackson receiving the Award of Merit, the CBA’s highest honor. Also, for the first time, the CBA Young Lawyers Division’s Gary L. McPherson Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year honoree Kara Veitch was honored at the event.
“I’m honored and humbled to be given this year’s Young Lawyer of the Year award,” she said. “I’m often asked how I do all of these things that I do, and believe me it’s not without help and support and inspiration of other people in this room.”
Veitch thanked her grandmother, calling her the glue that holds their family together; her parents for showing her the importance of community involvement; her husband, who makes sacrifices so that she can succeed; and her mentors.
Jackson echoed Veitch’s sentiments.
“I know that my life has been enriched by every person with whom I have come into contact in my 41 years of practicing law,” he said. “In sharing your knowledge and ideas with me, I have grown not just as an attorney, but as a husband, a father, a son, and human being.”