A presidential legacy

A one-on-one Q&A with Judge Andrew Jackson VI (’81)

By Luis Ruuska. Originally published in Tennessee Law, fall 2014.

“Three greats and a grand” is how Judge Andrew Jackson VI (’81) describes his lineage to the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson.

Jackson VI often cites the coincidental similarities between himself and the former president to visitors of the Hermitage, his ancestor’s estate in Nashville.

“I always like to say, ‘Andrew Jackson was a lawyer, I’m a lawyer; Andrew Jackson was a prosecutor, I was a prosecutor; Andrew Jackson served in the military, I served in the military,’” says Jackson. However, he makes it clear that he and his ancestor share career commonalities up to a point: “Andrew Jackson was a judge, I’m a judge; Andrew Jackson was president, I’m a judge.”

President Jackson’s rise to prominence is something Jackson VI finds particularly captivating. “It really is a rags-to-riches story as far as Andrew Jackson is concerned,” he says. “Jackson was the first [president] who was born poor but worked his way up, and I think that shows in this country, you can do that.”

Since graduating from UT Law, Jackson has spent nearly his entire career working in public service. He initially worked in private practice but soon found himself working as an assistant district attorney with the Knox County Attorney General’s Office. “I loved working for the attorney general,” he says. “That’s a job where you can serve people and you’re helping society as a whole—and it’s a fun job, to boot.”

Jackson admits the position came with its challenges when facing unwinnable cases where justice was clearly needed but could not always be served. “I think you’ve got to draw the balance between doing what is right and sometimes what you’d like to do,” he says. “There are some instances around the country where prosecutors have gotten in trouble for getting cloudy and thinking the ends justify the means.”

For the future, Jackson doesn’t plan to climb the political ladder like his ancestor did. “I’d like to be king, but I wouldn’t like to be president. I think most people feel that way,” he says. “No, I’ll just stay with the judicial part of it. I think it suits me.” He ultimately plans to keep his roots in the Volunteer State. “Tennessee has been my family’s home for a very long time,” he says. “Tennessee will always be my home.”