Ketanji Brown Jackson is Joe Biden’s new Supreme Court nominee whose family includes a surgeon husband, school principal mother, lawyer father, and two daughters.
“I am standing here today as testament to the love and support I have received from my family,” she said in her nomination speech.
Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson, Ketanji Brown Jackson’s husband, is a surgeon. In her speech, she touted the support of her parents and spoke of her brother, an Iraq War veteran who is a former Baltimore police officer.
Ketanji Brown Jackson serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. According to NPR, she made President Barack Obama’s shortlist for U.S. Supreme Court in 2016.
Biden wrote on Twitter on February 25, 2022, “I’m proud to announce that I am nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court. Currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, she is one of our nation’s brightest legal minds and will be an exceptional Justice.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brown Jackson’s Husband Is a Gastrointestinal Surgeon She Met in College
According to The Miami Herald, Patrick Graves Jackson is a gastrointestinal surgeon and met his wife while they were both attending Harvard.
The outlet reported that Jackson is currently a general surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, which includes a bio of Jackson on its website.
Patrick Graves Jackson has a Twitter page, but the tweets are protected. His Twitter bio indicates he’s a professor at Georgetown.
A no-longer-visible tweet published on Jackson’s Twitter page in June 2021, according to The Associated Press, said, “Happy Loving Day! I am especially thankful to be walking through life with a brilliant and compassionate partner who still takes my breath away, made possible by sacrifices like Richard and Mildred Loving.”
According to Biography.com, “The monumental love story of Richard and Mildred Loving resulted in the landmark Supreme Court case that wiped away the last segregation laws in America.” The Lovings were arrested because of their interracial marriage. The Jacksons themselves are an interracial couple.
According to MedStar Health, Patrick is a surgeon working at Pasquerilla Healthcare Center in Washington, D.C.
2. Brown Jackson has Two Daughters, Talia & Leila
The New York Times reported that “in 1996, she earned her law degree and married Dr. Jackson. They now have two daughters, Talia, 21, and Leila, 17.”
In a 2017 speech, the judge also revealed that the couple’s daughter, Leila, wrote President Barack Obama a letter urging him to name her mother to the U.S. Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia died. She said that some of her friends felt her mother should apply for that position, so she decided to write the president to “tell him who you are.”
“Dear Mr. President, while you are considering judges to fill Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court, I would like to add my mother Ketanji Brown Jackson of the district court to the list,” the letter read, according to Jackson’s speech.
“I, her daughter Leila Jackson of 11 years old, strongly believe that she would be an excellent fit for the position. She is determined, honest and never breaks a promise to anyone, even if there are other things she’d rather do,” Jackson read from her daughter’s letter. “She can demonstrate commitment, and is loyal and never brags. I think she would make a great Supreme Court justice, even if the workload will be larger on the court or if you have other nominees. Please consider her aspects for the job. Thank you for listening.”
3. Jackson’s Parents Are a Lawyer & School Principal Who Raised Her Primarily in Miami, Florida
According to NPR, Ketanji Brown Jackson’s parents “were public school teachers until her father became a lawyer, and her mother, eventually, a school principal.”
Brown Jackson once said that her ancestors on both sides of her family were slaves, and her grandparents were raised in Georgia. In contrast, her husband’s family can be traced back to England, she said in the 2017 speech.
During her said her parents were married for 54 years, and she had a supportive family growing up.
“It was my father who started me on this path” when she was a child, she said. He had transferred from his job as a history teacher to become a lawyer. “I watched him study, and he became my first professional role model,” she said. Her mother worked full-time to enable her father’s transition.
“Patrick is a quintessential ‘Boston Brahmin’ — his family can be traced back to England before the Mayflower,” she said in the 2017 of her husband. “He and his twin brother are, in fact, the sixth generation in their family to graduate from Harvard College. By contrast, I am only the second generation in my family to go to any college, and I am fairly certain that if you traced my family lineage back past my grandparents — who were raised in Georgia, by the way — you would find that my ancestors were slaves on both sides.”
Brown Jackson explained her biography in the 2017 speech: She was born in 1970 in Washington D.C. to two public school teachers. Her parents were born in Florida, but they came to Washington D.C. to start their careers and married life. Her parents chose an African name for her after asking her aunt, who was then in the Peace Corps in Africa, to find a name that expressed pride in their African heritage. Her name means “Lovely,” she said in the speech.
When she was 3 years old, her parents moved the family to Miami, Florida, where the judge was raised. Her first memories were a campus apartment because her father had returned to go to law school. In preschool, she would sit at the table and do her homework with her father, who was studying for law school. “There is no question that my interest in the law” began at that time, she said.
According to The Washington Post, her parents are named Johnny and Ellery Brown. They attended historically Black colleges and Johnny became the “top attorney for the Dade County School Board,” while Ellery became principal of the New World School of the Arts, “a magnet public high school.”
“My parents set out to teach me that, unlike the many impenetrable barriers that they had had to face, my path was clear,” recalled Jackson, now 51, to The Post. “If I worked hard and believed in myself, I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be.”
The White House explained in a news release,
Judge Jackson was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Miami, Florida. Her parents attended segregated primary schools, then attended historically black colleges and universities. Both started their careers as public school teachers and became leaders and administrators in the Miami-Dade Public School System. When Judge Jackson was in preschool, her father attended law school. In a 2017 lecture, Judge Jackson traced her love of the law back to sitting next to her father in their apartment as he tackled his law school homework—reading cases and preparing for Socratic questioning—while she undertook her preschool homework—coloring books.
According to The Post, Johnny and Ellery “kept on their coffee table a book about racism in America, ‘Faces At the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism,’ by Derrick Bell, the first Black professor to win tenure at Harvard Law School.”
“As a dark-skinned black girl who was often the only person of color in my class, club, or social environment, my parents knew that it was essential that I develop a sense of my own self worth that was in no way dependent on what others thought about my abilities,” Jackson said to The Post.
4. Brown Jackson’s Brother Is a Former Police Officer Who Served in Iraq
The judge has one younger brother. He served in the Army in Iraq and is a lawyer she said in her nomination speech.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Jackson’s brother is named Ketajh Brown, and he “served with the Baltimore Police Department from October 2001 through May 2008.” He is now a corporate attorney in Chicago, according to the newspaper.
During comments after her nomination, Brown Jackson said of her brother, “I am so proud of all that he’s accomplished,” adding that he worked “on some of the toughest streets in the inner city of Baltimore” as a police officer and detective.
She said he enlisted in the Army serving two tours of duty in the Middle East. She said her uncles are in law enforcement, as well. She said one of her uncles was “caught up in the drug trade” and received a life sentence (that uncle is Thomas Brown Jr., who was serving a life sentence in Florida for a drug crime before former President Barack Obama commuted his sentence, according to The Washington Post.) She had two uncles who served decades in law enforcement, and one of them became the police chief in Miami, Florida. The police chief uncle is Calvin Ross, her mother’s brother, The Post Reported.
According to his LinkedIn page, Ketajh Brown is a commercial litigation associate for K&L Gates in Chicago, who previously worked at Husch Blackwell. He was a law clerk to Judge David R. Herndon in the Southern District of Illinois, a judicial staff attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals, and an investigator for the federal public defender’s office in Washington D.C. He lists being an infantry officer in the United States Army from 2006 to 2013.
According to LinkedIn, he attended law school at the University of Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Law Review-Note and Comment Editor/Diversity Committee Chair, a coach with the Wisconsin Moot Court Board, a member of the Wisconsin mock trial team, and vice president of the Black Law Students Association.
5. Jackson Is Related Through Marriage to Former Congressman Paul Ryan
Jackson has a family tie to former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s family.
According to SCOTUS blog, Ketanji Brown Jackson “is related by marriage to Congressman (and former Speaker of the House) Paul Ryan.” She confirmed this in her 2017 speech, saying, “I am related by marriage to House Speaker Paul Ryan.”
The judge spoke extensively about her husband and their daughters in a 2017 speech, which you can watch above.
“Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity, is unequivocal. She is an amazing person,” Paul Ryan said, according to NBC News. Ryan’s wife Janna Ryan’s younger sister is Dana Little Jackson, according to The Oklahoman.
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