Many individuals make Chicago a unique city, and some of the citizens are so well known, a single name identifies them-Oprah, for example. The name “Button Man” best describes John H. Jackson III. If you’ve ever worn a Mayor Harold Washington button, it was probably made by “Button Man.”
On Feb. 4, 2008, Mr. Jackson died at the age of 80. Born on March 29, 1927 in LaGrange, he was the second oldest of nine children. Jackson was a fixture at most political or community forums. He was also a regular caller to radio station WVON, sometimes referring to himself as Mr. Right. Jackson always reminded the community that his nephew was Black Star Project founder Phillip Jackson.
To say Button Man was colorful is a understatement, he would not stop talking until he made his point. When the late Lu Palmer was host of WVON’s On Target, he would often say “Button Man, what are you talking about now?”
Talk show host Cliff Kelley can attest to Jackson’s involvement in the lively art of conversation. During Kwanzaa celebrations two years ago at South Shore Country Club, Kelley had to take his microphone back from Jackson, so he could finish the program. Even the guest speaker, Professor Michael Fauntroy of George Mason University, began laughing along with the audience.
Making buttons was not just a hobby, it was what Jackson often believed in and supported. When the organization “Black People Against Torture” was formed, it was Jackson who did all their buttons and attended their weekly meetings. Besides the love of his family, he enjoyed discussing politics, working with his nephew Phillip, playing cards, and listening to jazz-especially Duke Ellington’s “A-Train.”
Jackson joined the Navy during WWII and was in service with singer/activist Harry Belafonte. He worked for the U.S. Postal Service and retired from Encyclopedia Britannica. He was a member of New Euclid Park Association and a local school council (LSC) member. Jackson worked to increase voter registration and often served as a judge at voting polls.
He is survived by his wife, Veronica; his three children, Rona, Jonathan and John Jackson IV; his grandson, Korale White; and his cousins, Ronald, Henry and Carl Jackson.