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Time magazine quoted Jackson as saying at that time that the traditional civil rights movement had lost its "offensive thrust. In the mid-1990s he was approached about being the United States Ambassador to South Africa but declined the opportunity in favor of helping his son Jesse Jackson Jr. In 1965 Jackson participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches organized by James Bevel King and other civil rights leaders in Alabama.
He is the founder of the organizations that merged to form Rainbow/PUSH. is his eldest son.