James S. Jackson, Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Research Professor Emeritus at the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan, died September 1, 2020 at the age of seventy-six.  

Professor Jackson received his B.S. degree from Michigan State University in 1966, his M.A. degree from the University of Toledo in 1970, and his Ph.D. degree from Wayne State University in 1972. He joined the University of Michigan faculty as an assistant professor in 1971, was promoted to associate professor in 1977, and professor in 1986.

Professor Jackson was a giant in social psychology, whose work and broad influence will endure for generations to come.  He founded the Program for Research on Black Americans in 1976, which focused on issues of racial and ethnic influences on life course development, attitude change, reciprocity, social support and coping and health among Blacks in the Diaspora. He was past director of the Institute for Social Research and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, and past national president of the Black Students Psychological Association and Association of Black Psychologists. He was awarded the University of Michigan’s inaugural Distinguished Diversity Scholar Career Award in 2017, an award that now bears his name:  The James S. Jackson Distinguished Career Award for Diversity Scholarship. Professor Jackson received numerous university, national and international awards. These include the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology (2019) and the Distinguished Service to Psychological Science Award. He was a member of the National Academy of Medicine, National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, a member of the National Science Board (appointed by President Barack Obama), and a Fellow in several other academic societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Jackson directed the most extensive surveys ever conducted on the social and political behavior, mental and physical health of African American and Black Caribbean populations: “The National Survey of Black Americans”, “The National Survey of American Life” and “The Family Survey across Generations and Nations” as well as the National Science Foundation- and Carnegie Corporation-supported “National Study of Ethnic Pluralism and Politics.” Among many other service contributions, he served on several boards for the National Research Council and the National Academies of Science and was a founding member of the Aging Society Research Network of the MacArthur Foundation.

Professor Jackson retired from active faculty status on May 31, 2020, with over 17 books and over 180 research articles that have influenced the research direction and thinking of entire fields. Another enduring legacy is Professor Jackson’s tremendous contributions to the mentorship and career development of scores of young scholars of color from many social science and public health disciplines.

In the words of Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, Robert Sellers: "James Jackson is probably the most important researcher on the life experiences of African Americans in the past 100 years. His work transcends the traditional fields of psychology, sociology, political science and public health to provide a rich picture of the strengths, challenges, and functioning that characterizes the breadth of experiences of the African American community. In doing so, James' work has been foundational to our understanding of the social determinants of health and well-being in our country.”

Professor Jackson is survived by his wife, Toni Antonucci; his daughters, Ariana and Kendra; his sons-in-law, Alex Berger and Tyson Timmer; and his three grandchildren, Josephine, Emmett, and Maya.

Donations can be made online in James’ memory to the James S Jackson Emerging Scholars Fund.

The New York Times gave a tribute to Professor Jackson at this link.

Professor Jackson’s obituary can be found at this link.

An APS rememberence of Professor Jackson can be found here.

A tribute to Professor Jackson from the president of APS can be found here.