First African-American female to serve as Justice of the Peace in Waller County
By: Rebecca S. Jones
PRAIRIE VIEW – Thurgood Marshall once said, “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” The Honorable Marian “Elaine” Jones-Jackson can affirmatively attest to this thought, as her journey was paved by “steps” and career choices inspired by influential personalities. Her life’s story evolved from being a genuine of servant of God, to becoming a true servant to the people. This factor has enabled to solidify her as, the First African-American female to serve as Justice of the Peace in Waller County.
Marian Elaine Jones-Jackson is a native of Houston. She was born in the 60’s to Rev. Dan, Jr. and the late Bertha Gamble-Jones, in a loving and religious environment. Being raised with several brothers until the birthing of a sister 17-years later, contributed to a tomboy-like personality, during her adolescent period.
Elaine was educated in the Houston Independent School District, where she completed her formal years of education. To some degree, she was frightened at the idea of transitioning from high school to the real world; because she was unsure if she was prepared. Therefore, she took a year to gather her thoughts in regards to her future. While uncertain of the career path that she would embark on, a compassionate heart and the desire to give back to others motivated her to advance her studies. Thus, she enrolled at Prairie View A & M University.
Once reaching the campus of Prairie View, she initially had a mind to become a prosecutor. Previously, she had always viewed prosecutors, as a sect of professionals who demonstrated power. Her charitable nature suggested to her that she could really make a difference in the system. However, due to the outstanding talents she possessed in the field of Mathematics, one of her professors encouraged her to major in Math. As time progressed, she was persuaded by another facilitator to acquire a teacher’s certification. The older professor explained the benefits of being well-equipped with a secondary option. Elaine shared, “My professor said, ‘when she was growing up, every person of Color needed a backup plan.’” “Though you may be intelligent, you may not always be able to pursue your original career of intent,” her professor warned. The logic of wisdom resonated well with her, insomuch that she made preparations to secure credentials to become a certified educator.
In 1984, Elaine achieved her degree from Prairie View A &M University. Afterwards, she completed her student teaching in Waller ISD, where she taught Math at the junior high level. Despite being interviewed for an opportunity to work at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in California, she opted to stay close to home for several reasons. One of which was due to her mother’s deteriorating health condition, coupled with, the newly discovered passion she found in teaching young minds.
Some time after completing her student teaching, she was on campus walking through Anderson Hall, when she encountered a recruiter from Aldine ISD. A brief conversation with the representative privileged Elaine with an on-site interview, which proved to be successful. After visiting Aldine’s human resource department for an official interview she was sent to Aldine Junior High School. Instantly, she was offered employment and decided to dedicate five years to the field of education. From this experience, she began teaching under the administration of Principal Wilbert Johnson. Principal Johnson became a mentor to her, and one that she describes as a, “father figure” and “wonderful man”. When he was extended the invitation to transfer to MacArthur High School, he asked her to come with him. Originally, she was reluctant to accept, because her 5-year quota had already been fulfilled. Her goals to continue her education in law school were in her sight. She had already prepared for law school, by going to seminars and positioning herself to take the LSAT. Nonetheless, Principal Johnson assured her that both were possible, if she attended school at night. Consequently, she went on to teach at MacArthur High School for twelve-years.
In 1999, Elaine married the love of her life, former-Mayor Frank Jackson. Mr. Jackson is an affluent leader in the Prairie View community and university. He is a respected author, speaker, community advocate and has served on Prairie View’s City Council, amongst various other roles. He is more readily known for his office of, serving as Mayor of Prairie View for over a decade. Following their union, Elaine relocated to be with her husband. Remaining loyal to her position at Aldine, she commuted for a year. Afterwards, she thought it best to teach in the community of her residence. For the next five-years, she educated students in Waller; until she found herself at a crossroad in her career. Hence, she completed her final year of teaching in 2006, for a sum of 22-years.
Thereafter, Elaine took some time to focus on publishing four of her husband’s books through the publishing company they engineered, Agyeman Enterprise (African, “saving of a nation”). Copies of the books are available for purchase on Amazon.com. In the process, she continued her quest for learning, by frequenting various seminars. After attending one, she was approached by the Director of Student Teaching on the campus of Prairie View; who offered her an opportunity to supervise the student teachers on-site. She agreed and operated in this capacity for a year.
Not long afterwards, she was in attendance at a Women’s Seminar in Houston. In the midst, was a friend of hers, Municipal Court Judge Morris Overstreet. After inquiring with Judge Overstreet about law school, he asked her if she had ever considered running for public office. At the time, Elaine had only been a resident within the community for ten-years and had no political background experience of her own. While she thought on all of the reasons that she was not the person for the charge, she simply said within herself, “I will just pray about it.’ After doing so, considering her years of volunteering in the community and presenting the idea to a few family members; she was moved to run for public office. Her husband, a veteran in the field, encouraged and supported her by giving her a book to prepare for “Naval Warfare”, related to campaign strategies.
Once Elaine made up her mind that she would pursue the vacant seat in Precinct 3 as a Democrat, she hit the ground running. She campaigned door to door, which was a routine exercise for her. After relocating to the county, she had become the Public Relations Officer and Chairperson of Community Events for Prairie View Volunteer Fire Fighting Association. In this role, she was responsible for a smoke detector activity in the community and was familiar with going into the homes of local residents. She was also blessed to have several friends to assist in her efforts of campaigning as well. Evidently, their works did not go unnoticed, as she prevailed in the election. Her victory established her as the first African-American female to serve as Justice of the Peace in Waller County. At present, she is the only African-American judge in Waller County.
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As Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace, her court has jurisdiction over Class C misdemeanor criminal cases, Debt Claims, and Small Claim civil cases, as well as Evictions and Repair and Remedy cases. Her additional responsibilities include: setting bail at the jailhouse, signing mental health warrants, peace bond hearings, marrying residents and performing inquests throughout Waller County. Upon assuming office, she made it her business to reach out to the other elected officials in the area to introduce herself.
Elaine is equally dedicated to her judicial commitment, as she is to ensuring justice for each case that comes before her seat. In an effort to ensure that she is promptly prepared to hear the various cases that are presented, she studies each individual law prior to hearing a case. In addition to fulfilling her judicial educational requirements, she has committed herself to receiving an extensive amount of extra education hours. In her spare time, she participates in webinars and on-site class. With a strong belief that no, two cases are the same, she prides herself on the true ethic of, “innocent until proven guilty”. To that regard she says, “As long as I’m in this position, I’m going to continue to advocate for change.”
Though she has left the field of teaching, she still utilizes her platform to educate others. As such, she has opened her office to accept internships. The first intern opportunity began in the spring of 2012 and the office has accommodated 68 interns since. Interns are comprised of high school, college and graduate students. In the program, students have the opportunity to learn the operation of the justice system through: municipal, county and district courts, as well as local government. Participants witness real cases and experience the process from jury selection to the verdict outcome. On one instance, Elaine has taken eight of her interns to Austin to witness the legislative caucus. Interns are required to volunteer at Vacation Bible School and other community service efforts. Also, through the relationships that she has formed with other judges, interns have the privilege to go and interview with them, once their internships are complete.
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