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Jackson, Frank Darr

Published onJul 30, 2021
Jackson, Frank Darr

(January 26, 1854 — November 16, 1938)

 Quick Facts

Iowa State student, lawyer, Iowa Senate secretary, Iowa Secretary of State, 15th Governor of Iowa, President, Royal Union Life Insurance Company. 


Frank Darr Jackson was born at Arcade, Wyoming County, New York on January 26, 1854, a son of Hiram W. Jackson, a school teacher, and Marion Jenks Jackson.  In his early years, he attended Arcade Academy, but in 1867 the family moved to Jesup, Buchanan County, Iowa.  After attending public schools in Jesup, he entered Iowa Agricultural College in Ames.  He attended during the 1871 and 1872 academic years, but instead of finishing a degree at Iowa State, he enrolled in the law school at the University of Iowa.  He completed the course in 1874 and received an LLD degree from the University. He also took a post graduate course and was admitted to the Iowa Bar on January 26, 1875, his twenty first birthday.

Upon admission to the Bar, Jackson opened a law practice in Independence, Iowa, close to his hometown of Jesup. and practiced there for five years.  During this time he married Anna Brock, who had also attended Iowa State, on November 16, 1877, and they had four sons; Graydon, Ernest, Frank, and Leslie.  In 1880, he moved to Greene, Butler County, Iowa, and established a new law practice in a partnership with C.N. Greene.  Jackson also served as assistant adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard at about this time.  He became active in politics at this time, identifying with the Republican Party, and supporting William Larrabee in Larrabee's first attempt to run for governor in 1881.  The following year, at the age of 28, Jackson was elected secretary of the Iowa Senate and served until 1884.  His popularity as secretary of the Senate led to his nomination for Iowa Secretary of State in 1884.  He was elected and then re-elected in 1886 and 1888.  The Iowa Official Register, commonly known as the Red Book, had been published under other names as early as 1860, but in 1886, during Jackson's tenure, was first published under the name that is still used today and with a much broader content of information on the workings of Iowa's state government.

Jackson had business interests as well, and in 1889 he decided not to run for re-election as Secretary of State.  He and Sidney A. Foster, a long time friend, organized the Royal Union Life Insurance Company in Des Moines.  Despite predictions that the business would fail, Jackson and Foster gradually made the company very successful.  His success in the insurance business caused many of Jackson's friends to start a boom for him for governor.  The incumbent Democratic governor, Horace Boies, was running for re-election and did not appear at first to be vulnerable.  Early in the campaign, corruption charges against Jackson surfaced, but an investigation cleared him.  The Republicans nominated Jackson in the summer of 1893 to oppose Boies, and he went on to defeat Boies in November by more than 32,000 votes.

Another major issue was dealing with the effects of the economic depression of the mid 1890s.  A group of unemployed workers formed what became known as Coxey's Army, led by Ohio businessman James Coxey, to march across the country to demand action by the federal government for relief.  The march started in San Francisco with about 350 men but had grown to over a thousand by the time it reached Iowa.  When the Army crossed Iowa in the summer of 1894, Jackson called out the state militia to assure order in the state.  Although there had been disorders in some western states, the march was peaceful in Iowa.

Jackson also dealt with other issues as governor.  He supported raising the inheritance tax because he saw “no good reason why the state of Iowa should not increase its revenues by taxing franchises, writs and express companies, and by levying upon collateral inheritance.”  He also wanted a more humanitarian prison policy, especially in regard to first offenders, and for the establishment of a Board of Parole.  In addition, he persuaded the legislature to appropriate $5,000 for the construction of a monument near the scene of the Spirit Lake Massacre in 1857.  He also recommended funds for the construction of what eventually became the first State Historical Building in Des Moines.

Jackson took many people by surprise when he announced toward the end of his term that he would not seek re-election.  Very likely he would have been re-elected, but he wanted to return to his insurance business.  He retired from the governorship in January, 1896 and resumed the presidency of the Royal Union Life Insurance Company.  He remained in charge of the company until his retirement in 1924.  During these years, he remained an active public figure in Iowa as well, making many public appearances and delivering many public speeches. 

In 1924, Jackson retired from his business, and he and his wife, Anna, moved to California where he lived the rest of his life.  Shortly before his death, he said in an interview that “Iowa and California are the two greatest states in the union, and it's increasingly difficult to tell where one leaves off and the other begins.”

Frank Darr Jackson died at his home in Redlands, California on November 16, 1938, and he was interred in Hillside Cemetery there.


Selected Sources

Comprehensive coverage of Frank Dale Jackson's life include History of Butler County Iowa. Union Publishing Company, 1883, p. 341.

Johnson Brigham, Iowa: Its History and Its Foremost Citizens. Volume 1. Chicago. S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, pp. 519-521.

Who Was Who in America. Volume 1, 1897-1942. Chicago. A. N. Marquis Company, 1942, p. 623.

Jacob A. Swisher, The Governors of Iowa. Mason City, IA. Klipto Loose Leaf Company, 1946, pp. 75-76.

Michael Kramme, Governors of Iowa. Des Moines, IA.

The Iowan Books, 2006, pp. 45-46.

David Hudson, et. al., The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. Iowa City, IA. University of Iowa Press, 2008, p. 266.  

The precise years that Jackson was a student at Iowa State are found in Fourth Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the Iowa State Agricultural College and Farm. Des Moines, IA. G. W. Edwards, State Printer, 1872, p. 54 and the Fifth Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the Iowa State Agricultural College and Farm. Des Moines, IA. R. P. Clarkson, State Printer, 1873, p. 23.

His degree from the University of Iowa in 1874 is confirmed in the Catalogue of Officers and Alumni of the State University of Iowa, 1847 to 1885 and Students, 1884-5. Iowa City, IA. Published by the University, 1885, p. 40.

Details of Jackson's governorship can be found in Brigham, op. cit., pp. 518-519, 521-526; Benjamin F. Gue, History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century. Volume 3; From 1886-1894. New York. Century History Company, 1903, pp. 170-182; and Leland L. Sage, A History of Iowa. Ames, IA. Iowa State University Press, 1974, p. 213.

Obituaries can be found in “Former Governor Jackson Is Dead,” Des Moines Register, November 17, 1938, p. 1; “Alumni Here and There,” The Alumnus of Iowa State, Volume 34, Number 4, December, 1938, p. 90; and “Notable Deaths,” Annals of Iowa, Volume 21, Number 7, January, 1939, p. 558.

Census information can be found at for the 1870 and 1880 Federal Censuses.  Information about the Iowa Official Register can be found on 


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