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Jesse Jackson hospitalized, recovering after surgery

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was hospitalized last week and has undergone what family is describing as minor surgery. He is recovering at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks as Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, the National Institute of Health’s lead scientist for coronavirus vaccine research, stands beside him at Roseland Community Hospital, where Jackson received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was hospitalized last week and underwent what family is describing as minor surgery, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The 79-year-old founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition is recovering at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, sources said.

“I can say that yes, Rev. Jackson is at Northwestern hospital. And yes, he did have a successful operation,” said PUSH Public Policy Director Frank Watkins, his longtime right hand. “I personally don’t know all the details, so I don’t want to get into that. I know that he is resting comfortably, and that he is expected home in a couple of days.”

The civil rights leader was hospitalized Thursday and rushed into surgery, sources said.

“I’ve talked with the family, and they expect him home in a couple of days. They’re looking forward to having him home and they feel that so far everything has been successful,” Watkins said.

Jackson was scheduled to host a 1 p.m. news conference Friday at Roseland Community Hospital, where he was to publicly receive his second dose COVID-19 vaccine and join the hospital’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Sickle Cell and Oncology Clinic. But PUSH officials sent out an alert canceling it two hours before the event.

Jackson had received his first dose of the vaccine three weeks ago, with Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett, the Black woman scientist who co-led the National Institutes of Health team that developed the Moderna vaccine, at his side.

Reached Sunday afternoon, Jackson’s son, Jonathan Jackson, whom sources said has been the one at his father’s side in the hospital, said his father was doing well but encouraged prayers.

“My father has kept his regular schedule and continues working,” said Jonathan Jackson.

“He was leading food drives up till this moment. He is very upbeat and cheerful and talkative, and we look forward to seeing him home. We thank everyone for your prayers.”

Jackson, who has led a lifelong battle for racial and economic equity, human rights and social justice, has been living with Parkinson’s disease since announcing the diagnosis on Nov. 17, 2017. It slowed but did not stop his activities, Jackson maintaining leadership of PUSH even as the illness has taken its toll.

The civil rights leader, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the ’60s and made two historic runs for the U.S. presidency in the 80s, has additionally lived with sickle-cell trait for decades, has continued to work tirelessly in his advocacy for racial and economic equity on fronts from universal health care to criminal justice reform, battling erosion of civil rights laws, gerrymandering and voter suppression under President Donald Trump.