Tribute to Peter Hardin Jackson, an articulate voice for conservation and human rights

Tribute to Peter Hardin Jackson, an articulate voice for conservation and human rights

Conservation Northwest / Apr 01, 2020 / Work Updates

By Paul Bannick, Major Gifts Director

The world lost a singular human being last month when Peter Hardin Jackson passed away. He would have been 54 on Friday. Peter was a gifted writer who was passionate about advocating for human rights and the environment. He and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation supported Conservation Northwest and many other good causes.

I met Peter more than 35 years ago when the two of us attended the University of Washington (UW). His kindness, humility and self-deprecating sense of humor made me, and many others throughout his life, feel an instant sense of comfort and friendship.

Peter was a good friend and a valued confidant through much of my life. He was influential during such milestones as the passing of my father, the changing of my career from software, which eventually led me to Conservation Northwest, and encouraging me to write my first book. I am positive many others feel similar gratitude.

National Book Award winner and New York Times columnist Tim Egan commented on Peter’s passing in an email to me with the sentiment that Peter was “a great guy with a great wit and a heart truly into the preservation of our wild lands.”

Peter was a gifted writer whose outstanding command of the English language was complemented by his keen intellect and burning sense of purpose. Although he was surrounded by power and influence throughout his life, Peter preferred to speak on behalf of the people and places that desperately needed his help.

He was the speechwriter for Governors Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire, he wrote for Crosscut and was later the editorial editor for the Everett Daily Herald. He was also a frequent contributor to the Seattle Times, including on conservation issues.

Peter invested a great deal of energy in work for the Jackson Foundation and the University of Washington Center for Human Rights at the Jackson School. It was Peter who first proposed the idea of approaching the Washington State Legislature to create such an interdisciplinary center for human rights at the UW. He and his wife Laurie established the “Advancing Human Rights at Home Fund” for those who wish to support these efforts.

Peter was the only son of the late Senator Henry M. (Scoop) Jackson, and shared his famous father’s passion for human rights and the environment. Peter also possessed some of his mother’s most distinctive personality traits including her sense of humor. To say Peter was funny is an understatement. His humor could be subtle or gut-wrenchingly funny, yet it never came at the expense of other people…well, almost never.

As a young boy Peter learned to recite the names of presidents in order. When his father and Richard Nixon were both running for president for the first time, his mother suggested Peter add his father’s name at the end. Peter later shared that “the expression on Richard Nixon’s face at a White House prayer breakfast made the entire circus routine worth it.”

His humor can be seen in an a piece he wrote for Crosscut “My Brief Career as a Spy with John McCain in China”.

In the opening remarks of his eulogy to his mother in March of 2018, Peter praised her for her humor and empathy and remarked, “perhaps sons aren’t supposed to want to grow up to be like their moms, but that’s exactly what I strove to do.”

Peter achieved both of these goals and more, and in the process made the Northwest and the world a better place. We already miss you, Peter.

Peter Hardin Jackson will be remembered for his passion for human rights, the environment, and protecting wild places. Photo: Paul Bannick