A Black conservative pastor who advised President Donald Trump died Monday, his church announced. Bishop Harry Jackson “transitioned to be with the Lord,” the announcement said. It was unclear how old Jackson was and the cause of his death was not immediately disclosed.
Jackson was a senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland.
Religion News Service reported that Jackson was one of the people in attendance at a White House ceremony in September held in honor of then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett — an event labeled as a so-called “superspreader” incident that resulted in numerous people contracting the coronavirus. At least two different evangelical leaders who also advise Trump contracted Covid-19 following that event.
Jackson joined Trump in April to deliver an Easter blessing that was heavily focused on the coronavirus pandemic. He thanked Trump for his “insightful leadership” before going on to pray for “a mitigation of this plague, this disease. Let medical science come forth.” He closed his prayer by asking God to “give this great man, our President, and give the Vice President wisdom beyond their natural limitations. Give them insights so they can cover us, lead us, and bless us.”
Jackson, who was also a past guest on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, never formally endorsed Trump. However, he consistently supported him. Jackson was among a group of Black pastors who banded together to support then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions‘ nomination to become Trump’s U.S. Attorney General in 2017. At the time, Sessions’ racist civil rights record was being challenged by opponents of his nomination.
Back when Trump was first running for president, Jackson suggested his endorsement would be conditional.
During one of his appearances on NewsOne Now a few months ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Jackson and two other conservative Black pastors — A.R. Bernard and Mark Burns — were pressed by Martin about their support for then-candidate Trump. Martin asked: Do they endorse him?
Jackson responded, “No, it is not an endorsement. It is an opportunity to influence the campaign and get some benefits for Black people.”
Though Jackson said he was not endorsing Trump, he did agree with the notion of supporting him by way of “putting forth some agenda items,” which he said included education, jobs and criminal justice reform.
Jackson added: “These are issues that Black people need to have Hillary [Clinton] step up and put some concrete things on the table, and so we want to help Trump get it right about the issues.”
Martin pressed him again on whether he was supporting Trump’s presidential candidacy. Jackson responded, “At this particular time, I’m advising Trump and I will support him if he follows through with all of the things that he is promising to do.”
According to his bio on Hope Christian Church’s website, Jackson was “a leading researcher on the black church” and co-author of “High Impact African American Churches,” a book nominated in 2005 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Gold Medallion award.
It was at his Hope Christian Church where Jackson hosted Vice President Mike Pence in June in the wake of George Floyd‘s police killing in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The Washington Post reported at the time that Jackson said his father was also the victim of police violence and told Pence “he believes there has been an awakening to racial injustice across America following the killing in police custody.” The Post listed Jackson’s age as 67 in that report. Religion News Service reported in its obituary that Jackson died at age 66.
Jackson, who has also staunchly opposed same-sex marriage, said he was deeply affected by the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. That prompted him to be an early supporter of defunding police departments “with bad track records, reprogram how police officers do their job and educate Americans on civic engagement.” Jackson was also a critic of what the Post described as “some conservative leaders” who “have minimized the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police.”
Reacting this past summer to the ongoing protests against racism, police violence and what is often the deadly combination of the two, Jackson had some choice words for America’s political system.
“I feel like blacks feel like they’ve been misused by the culture, Democrat and Republican, black, white and every other group has misused them,” he told the Post. “This is a deep wound in the soul of African Americans.”