Obituary: James S. Jackson


The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research joins the community in grief and gratitude remembering the life of pioneering social scientist James S. Jackson.

James S. Jackson
James S. Jackson

Jackson was the Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Psychology and professor emeritus of psychology in LSA, and research professor emeritus in ISR’s Research Center for Group Dynamics.

After a long and heroic battle with pancreatic cancer, Jackson died peacefully on Sept. 1. With him at his side were his wife, Toni Antonucci, Elizabeth M. Douvan Collegiate Professor of Psychology and professor of psychology in LSA, and research professor in ISR’s Survey Research Center, and his daughters Ariana and Kendra.

Jackson received his Ph.D. in psychology from Wayne State University in 1972. For many, he was the face of ISR for an era, directing the institute from 2005-15.

Since beginning his career at U-M in 1971, Jackson was a highly recognized voice in his field and beyond. His leadership roles began early in his career, including serving as chair of the National Association of Black Psychologists in 1972-73, serving on NIH review boards in the 1970s, and serving on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Aging from 1978-82.

“From the outset, James combined these academic service positions with a commitment to local community activities, advising groups such as the Maxey Boys Training School, the Highland Park School District, and the Metro Youth Program,” said ISR Director David Lam.

Born in 1944, Jackson, a proud native of Inkster, Michigan, was the first in his family to go to college and had an illustrious career making important contributions to research and teaching.

His pioneering National Survey of Black Americans, begun in 1977, has generated a wide range of influential research. The Program for Research on Black Americans, which he founded in 1976, has been an important center for research and training, producing a leading group of scholars.

Jackson’s contributions have earned him numerous distinctions, including election to the National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“James has provided enormous service to the university and the field both in leadership and mentorship,” said Richard Gonzalez, Research Center for Group Dynamics director.

Jackson’s leadership roles spanned the social sciences, health, medicine and science. One of the most notable is his appointment by President Barack Obama to the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board, which advises Congress and the president on national science and engineering policy.

“The commitment to service that James showed early in his career only intensified as he became one of the country’s leading research social psychologists,” Gonzalez said.

“James personified exceptional leadership,” Lam said. “We were honored to work alongside him at ISR. He will be dearly missed, as his impact continues onward.”

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in James’ memory to the James S. Jackson Emerging Scholars Fund, available online at

Submitted by the Institute for Social Research


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