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Thompson Statement Honoring the Life of Jess Stonestreet Jackson

May 10, 2011
Floor Statements

Washington, D.C., May 10, 2011 -

Mr. Speaker, I rise with both pride and sadness today with my colleague, Lynn Woolsey, to honor one of Sonoma County's pioneering leaders. Jess Stonestreet Jackson passed away April 12, 2011, at his home in Geyserville, California. From the wine industry to local philanthropy, Jess Jackson touched lives across the North Bay, and he was admired and respected for his devotion to our region.

Born on February 18, 1930, and raised in San Francisco, Jess Jackson worked numerous jobs as a child to support his parents. As a young adult, he worked as a long shoreman and police officer to put himself through the University of California, Berkeley. He embodied the American ideal that a dedicated and hardworking person can build a successful life.

With a unique drive and an entrepreneurial spirit, Jess Jackson established himself as a leader in the American wine industry. With a successful law career in San Francisco, he began growing grapes in the 1970s. He produced his first wine in the 1980s at the age of 52, quickly putting Sonoma County on the map as one of the premier wine-growing regions of the world. Jackson's work redefined the use of ``California'' as an appellation of quality for Chardonnay. His family company, Jackson Family Wines, now operates over 30 wineries around the globe.

Jackson was also known for devoting much of his energy, intellect and financial resources to help others. He donated millions of dollars to charities locally and across the country. In Sonoma County, for example, he supported the Family Justice Center, the Redwood Empire Food Bank, and the Boys and Girls Clubs. He and his wife, Barbara R. Banke, spearheaded a wine auction, Sonoma Paradiso, raising millions of dollars for a host of local causes for the benefit of children.

Jackson and Banke also embarked on a pioneering venture to promote the study and practice of sustainable viticulture. Their multimillion-dollar commitment to the University of California, Davis, which will fund the construction of a wine center geared toward education, testifies to the forward-thinking approach Jackson always took to business and agriculture in the Wine Country. It will create an opportunity for future generations to practice sustainable viticulture.

In addition to his wife, Jackson is survived by his five children and their families who will continue his legacy in the North Bay.

Mr. Speaker, I ask you to join me in honoring the life of Jess Stonestreet Jackson. His fine wines earned him friends worldwide. His entrepreneurial leadership and compassionate heart earned admirers throughout the North Bay. He has enriched our lives, and he will be dearly missed.