The memorial for the late NYS Supreme Court Judge Bernard Hampton Jackson of Water Mill and New York City at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, Friday April 26 was an afternoon service filled with love and laughter befitting this successful son of Harlem who helped pave the way for many African Americans in law enforcement and jurisprudence. Judge Jackson passed away on January 17, 2013 at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center following a long illness. He was 86 years old.
The venerable church was filled with New York’s power-players, friends of many decades, many of them who spoke emotionally and with great humor about Bernie, who loved a good party and a good joke. Among the speakers were Basil Paterson, a longtime political leader in New York and Harlem and father of the 55th Governor of New York, David Paterson. Congressman Charles Rangel, the Honorable David N. Dinkins, New York and Hamptons realtor Stephen Wald, family friend Keith Murray, fashion guru Audrey Smaltz, O. T. Wells, Livingston Francis, Dean of The Reveille Club and Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts who officiated and representatives from the many philanthropic organizations of which he was a prominent member, including 100 Black Men which he helped cofound and has since grown to 18,000 members internationally, with chapters around the world.
His son Bernard H, Jackson III with sister Linda Jackson by his side spoke movingly about their father. Fitting for Judge Jackson, a big classical music fan, Metropolitan Opera star Eric Owens performed “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and “This is Always.”
A longtime summer resident of Water Mill, Judge Jackson was one of the most respected figures in law enforcement. Born October 26, 1926 and raised in Harlem, he began his career as a police officer rising quickly up the ranks while attending Brooklyn Law School at night with his long-time friend David N. Dinkins, who would later go on to be Mayor of New York. “Bernie,” as he was known, rose to the rank of Detective before becoming Assistant United States Attorney working with Robert F. Kennedy.
From there he went on to work with his law school buddy Dinkins and became managing partner of Dyett, Alexander & Dinkins. He was later appointed the first black Executive Director of the NYC Police Department Civilian Complaint Review Board.
In 1968, he became one of only two black executives at the National Football League and was named as special counsel to Commissioner Pete Rozzele. Shifting back to public service, Jackson was named Special Assistant to Governor Hugh Carey for Urban Affairs and went on to become a Regional Representative to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Jimmy Carter.
In 1981, he and his wife Hazel divorced and he later wed Thelma “Fuji” Ferguson and had a son, Miles. During this time, Jackson was appointed to the Criminal Court in New york and was later elected Justice of the New York Stat Supreme Court. In 1990, after the unexpected death of his wife, he left the bench to become Counsel to international law firm White & Case and was later named Chairman of the New York City Civil Service Commission.
In 1990, he met Joyce Mullins who has a son Brandon and in 1997 they were married. They lived in Manhattan and Water Mill where he enjoyed the summer sunsets and the company of his many friends.
He participated in various civic and professional organizations including Manhattan Chapter of the Guardsmen, Zeta Boule, The Reveille Club of New york and Kappa Alpha Phi Fraternity. Jackson, along with his wife Joyce was an ardent supporter of numerous charitable organizations including Big Brothers, Big Sisters of New York, Glimmerglass Opera Festival (of which his daughter Linda is Managing Director), the Parrish Art Museum and Evidence, a dance company for whom he and Joyce hosted several of their annual On Our Toes in the Hamptons Galas at their Water Mill home.
Judge Jackson is survived by his wife Joyce Mullins Jackson, her son Brandon and her grandchildren Jalen and Asha Mullins, his daughter Linda and his son Bernard with daughter in-law Kerri Jackson.