Dr. Edward Jackson: The man nobody knows
This story appeared in the April 1983 issue of Columbus Monthly.
To scores of attractive young women, the “Grandview Rapist” has been a faceless, nameless terror. He has broken into their homes in the early morning hours when they were fast asleep. Some he has threatened with a knife. Others he has choked unconscious. Almost all he bound and raped.
At first the rapist seemed to be operating solely in an area near—but not in—the northwest suburb of Grandview. Then police noticed that a ski-masked intruder who wore gloves, carried a flashlight, pried open windows and bound his rape victims also was terrorizing areas on the east and north ends of town.
That just added to the frustration police felt. Stakeouts, SWAT teams and special units could put no dent in the one-man crime wave. The rapist was so careful that after seven years and perhaps as many as 100 rapes police had so few clues that they weren’t even positive whether the man they were looking for was black or white.
Then came Sunday, Sept. 5. Just after 6 am Columbus police surprised one Edward Franklin Jackson Jr. in the north-side apartment of two women who weren’t home at the time. At first Jackson was charged only with aggravated burglary and possession of criminal tools.
But after police said they found a list of apparent rape victims in his car, Jackson was charged with close to 100 criminal counts spanning seven years, including 38 counts of rape.
Police and prosecutors were so sure Jackson was their man that they released look-alike William Bernard Jackson from Lucasville, where he had already served five years of a 14- to 50-year sentences for the rapes of two area women, crimes with which Edward Jackson has now been charged.
That was a bizarre turn of events that captured national attention. But perhaps the most startling aspect of the whole case was that Edward Jackson was no unemployed ex-con or drugged-up street-corner hood.
Friends and colleagues describe him as the man you’d least suspect of such crimes. He’s a respected, hard-working, conscientious and some say brilliant internist. At the time of his arrest, he was a hospital board member. A rising community leader. A husband and model father. A man who appears to be the very soul of temperance, respectability and order.
Yet suddenly this reserved, conservative and almost jealously private man is center stage at what could be one of the longest and most sensational trials ever held here. How could that be? Questions about what brought Dr. Edward Jackson to this crisis point in his life will be tough to answer, because many people who have been in close contact with him over the years echo the words of a colleague who says, “When I think about it, it’s really surprising how little I know about Ed. I don’t think anybody really knows him.”
The story of Edward Franklin Jackson Jr. is a black success story. But Jackson’s climb carried a high price tag, one that even he might not have been fully aware of. His rise to the status of respected physician and to the security of the winding, tree-lined streets of backyard-barbecue suburbia cost him more than endless hours of hard work. He also paid in alienation—the alienation that a bookworm feels toward and from his more carefree classmates. The alienation of a black in what was destined to become an increasingly white world.
Jackson was born on Feb. 27, 1944, in Washington D.C., the first of three sons that Hazel J. and Edward Franklin Jackson would have. The father, for a while a mail carrier in Columbus, moved out in the 1950s, leaving Hazel to raise the three boys alone. Hazel was a bright, vivacious and determined woman who eventually became a head nurse on the fifth floor at Ohio State University Hospital.
She raised Ed, Timothy and Phillip in a two-story frame house on a corner lot at 338 E. Eighth Ave., in a drab blue-collar neighborhood in the shadow of the Columbus Coated fabrics plant.
The neighborhood was mostly black, but Ed, or “Pete,” as he was known, really wasn’t much a part of it. Younger brother Tim was more outgoing, but as for Ed, “You never saw him very much,” says Gloria Johnson, who lived about a block away. Jackson wasn’t one to loll away hours shooting hoops at the playground or just hanging out. He was likely to be inside, absorbed with a book.
Jackson was like that when he attended Indianola Junior High School and that trait became even more pronounced when he started at North High in 1958.
At that time North was, as one of his classmates recalls, “a kind of Camelot.” Whetstone High School wasn’t even on the drawing boards and North, which drew from the university area on up to Worthington, had the whole prosperous north end to itself. “It was the flagship school of the city system,” one of Jackson’s classmates recalls. “We didn’t have a lot of really wealthy kids, but it was more like Worthington or Arlington than a city school. Most of the kids were pretty serious and getting ready for college.”
Few were more serious than Jackson. “Ed was a lot more responsible than most of us, including myself,” says classmate Mike Schwarzwalder, now a state senator.
It was the bobby sox and carhop era, when the highlight of the week was meeting the gang at Jerry’s Drive In on Olentangy River Road. Almost everyone went there. Everyone except Ed. He wouldn’t be one to cruise up in a hot jalopy or on a double date after the East game. He wasn’t into dating, and he didn’t run with the popular crowd. And he didn’t hang out with the handful of blacks in the school. A classmate recalls, “He was by far the best black student. He didn’t seem to identify with the other blacks. I think he even tried to avoid them.”
“He was part of the slide-rule set,” Schwarzwalder says. Jackson, a tall, gangly youth, dressed the part. “The one thing that comes to my mind when I think of Ed is his briefcase,” a long-time classmate recalls. “As long as I knew him he had this beat-up old brown briefcase with a big brass buckle that he dragged to class. I think he had it in junior high school and all the way through high school.”
Jackson wasn’t the class brain; that honor went to valedictorian Stan Darling, now a professor at Capital University Law School. He wasn’t the class math whiz, although he did tie Jim Elliot, now director of the observatory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on a standardized chemistry test. But he was a bright kid who worked hard.
Almost everyone else who arrived early at North would congregate in the gym to chatter, boast, giggle, flirt and mess around. Ed would be off in a corner reading.
When he wasn’t reading, Jackson might be doing a special chemistry project. Still,
unlike Elliot, Jackson wasn’t one to hang around after school for “brain” activities such as math, chess or science club. Instead he would vanish with the bell, often going over to meet his grandfather, who worked as a janitor at the Indianola Presbyterian Church, and then home to his studies.
Jackson graduated near the top of his class in 1961 and moved on to Ohio State University, where, in the argot of the day, he was a “townie.” In his college days Jackson would begin to enjoy some of the things he missed in high school, but his academic accomplishments would not only give him a strong sense of identity, they would help to nurture a growing tendency toward aloofness.
At OSU Jackson majored in anatomy and joined Alpha Phi Alpha. He was one of the brightest and most serious members in the black social fraternity.
“He was very well respected. He was good at getting his point across and swaying the fraternity,” says Melvin Kindle, a friend of Jackson’s brother Timothy and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. He adds, though, “Ed kind of kept you at a distance. He was a little snobbish.”
He was a natural for pledge dean. Just the kind of guy to get the pledges to study their schoolwork and fraternity history and to let them know just how far away from the lofty ranks of the brotherhood they really were.
“Some of the big brothers would yell a lot,” one pledge recalls, “but Ed could really talk down with authority. He could really make you feel real insecure.”
Jackson was also a big asset during Hell Week when the Alpha Phi Alpha rented out a Masonic Lodge and put the pledges through the wringer. Jackson had enough common sense and respect to keep the more zealous actives from doing anything inordinately stupid or vicious.
With the Alpha Phi Alphas Jackson also started to socialize more, taking dates to the fraternity dances. One, Alice Hansen, a white coed from Bellevue, Ohio, would later become his wife.
It was while Jackson was in college that he and his mother and brothers moved up to a two-story house at 1127 E. 19th Ave., in a neat suburban-looking oasis in Linden.
Jackson took advantage of a well-used program that allowed “B” or better students in the College of Arts and Sciences to go through college in three years, and he graduated in June, 1964.
It was a proud moment for his mother, who could see Ed, already accepted at the Ohio State University Medical School, well on the road to becoming a doctor. But, just a month later, tragedy would hit the family broadside.
On July 10, at about 1 pm, Hazel was traveling west on 17th Avenue on her way to pick up Ed on the Ohio State campus. At Fourth Street, a northbound car apparently ran a red light, slammed into Hazel’s sedan and flipped it on its roof, pinning her helplessly under the hulk. Doctors at the hospital where she worked never even had a frantic chance to save her. At 1:30 pm on a summer day the 46-year-old mother of three was dead on arrival at University Hospital, where the driver of the other auto was treated for minor cuts and released.
Suddenly Jackson was staring at four tough years of medical school and the responsibility of caring for Tim, 18, and Phillip, 15.
If that scared him, he didn’t let people know. “No matter how things seemed to be going, Ed was always positive, almost cocky,” a medical school classmate says. But Jackson, who would be the only black in the graduating class of 1968, would revert to being something of a loner.
In medical school Jackson was bright and hard-working, but something short of brilliant. “We were just graded ‘satisfactory,’ ‘unsatisfactory’ or ‘exceptional,’ but Ed had to be one of the better students,” recalls Bob Bausch, a physician now practicing in Virginia and one of Jackson’s few close medical school friends.
“Ed was very smart and really hard-working,” another classmate recalls. “He was self-assured and kind of abrasive because of it. He was intelligent and it was almost like he was going to show us that black people weren’t dumb.”
At med school Jackson continued to be almost all business. A classmate recalls, “If you saw Ed sitting alone at Freddy’s Quick Lunch or in the cafeteria in the nursing school, you’d just leave him there. He wasn’t the kind of guy you’d go over and join. All he ever talked was shop. If he was with Bausch, they might be discussing the newest technique for a rhinoplasty or something.”
When the med school students scraped up enough money to go carousing, Jackson never went along. Bausch says, “I don’t recall ever going to a nightclub with Ed. I don’t even think he drank.”
A more likely activity for Jackson, Bausch and Bob Thompson, now a local physician, would be to go over to Jackson’s house to study and exchange notes. Jackson’s were meticulous and voluminous. “There wouldn’t be a blank bit of paper,” Bausch recalls. “They’d be neat, but crammed from margin to margin.”
It was in the latter part of med school that Jackson surprised Bausch and a few other friends when he told them he had married Alice Hansen. “The first time I met his wife was after they were married. I didn’t even know he was dating her,” Bausch recalls.
Although Bausch was a close friend, for most of the members of the med school class Jackson was almost a nonentity—until graduation.
The graduation dinner was schedule for the staid Columbus Athletic Club where Dean Richard Meiling was a member. Shortly before the dinner, Jackson told the dean and the class that he would not attend because of the discriminatory policies of the Athletic Club, which at that time had no black members. After a small brouhaha the dinner was shifted to the Sheraton.
“It wasn’t really a big inconvenience, and I don’t think there was any real resentment,” a classmate says, “but you had to think, ‘Isn’t that just like Ed.’ ”
Although it was the turbulent 1960s, Jackson’s med school class was, as one graduate says, “the last of the straight arrows. It wasn’t until 1970 or so that you had interns showing up for duty in ponytails and thongs.”
While the class of ’68 wasn’t marching on Washington to protest America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, it was the time of the TET Offensive, and ’Nam—and how to avoid it—was a foremost concern.
Although an occasional doctor went down in a helicopter crash in Southeast Asia, the big fear for the med school class of ’68 wasn’t the idea of coming home in a body bag; it was career interruption. The government was grabbing them up for two-year hitches, 11 months of which was slated for Vietnam. Few liked the prospect of coming back after a two-year stint with Uncle Sam to endure the rigors of internship and residency.
One of the most popular ways to avoid post-graduate induction was the Berry Plan, which allowed a med school grad to put off military service until he had completed his internship and residency. It also allowed him to go in as—and draw the pay of—a major rather than a captain.
One doctor who chose the plan says, “They said that in four years if they didn’t need you, you wouldn’t be drafted. But the military always needs doctors.”
Jackson opted for the Berry Plan, little knowing then that his military hitch eventually would come at the most opportune of times, providing a chance to get out of town when things were getting too hot and events threatened to annihilate 15 years of hard work and dreams.
With his military obligation postponed, Jackson, whose wife had just given birth to Ruth, the first of two daughters, was able to start his internship at Mt.Carmel. “It wasn’t as intense as it can be at University,” a fellow intern recalls. “There wasn’t a quite the crushing of people’s egos as there is there.”
At any hospital, internship is an unsettling time for most young doctors. As one of Jackson’s classmates says, “Up until that time almost all your learning is book learning. Internship is your first hands-on experience. For the first time you have to make decisions. It’s scary.”
If it bothered Jackson, no one else knew it. “Ed wasn’t afraid to do anything. Chest taps, IVs, anything. He’d have read about it, he’d know how to do it, and he’d do it,” a fellow intern recalls.
If his precociousness ever got him into more than a little mild trouble, his colleagues can’t recall it. “The people who get into trouble are the slackers,” a colleague says.
A slacker was the last thing anyone would mistake Jackson for. “I can’t remember Ed ever being sick or missing a call, and he was usually the first one on the floor,” a fellow intern recalls.
Those were traits that would be typical of Jackson throughout his medical career, as typical as the distance that he would keep from his colleagues.
When the Mt.Carmel interns weren’t trying to catch up on sleep, most of them relieved the pressure and the tedium of internship with bull sessions, by going over to the nurses’ gym to play some pick-up basketball, by watching TV or by trying to create some heated rivalries on the ping-pong and pool tables that were in the second-floor rec room.
“Ed certainly wasn’t a pool shark,” a classmate laughs. “I don’t think I ever saw him with a cue or a ping-pong paddle. He wasn’t the kind of guy you’d find watching a Bengals game on Sunday, either.”
While the others were horsing around a little, the intern whom classmates nicknamed “Easy Ed” was likely to be up in the third-floor library reading medical books.
“He was a loner,” one former intern recalls. “If you were going to get a pizza from Josie’s you wouldn’t even bother asking Ed if he wanted to go in.”
On Fridays, some of the others headed over to the Shamrock Club for cheap brews or up to Village favorites such as Plank’s and Deibel’s. Ed didn’t go along. Classmates recall that the only time he would really socialize would be at a scheduled party, a more formal function, where he might bring his wife and still talk shop.
“You know, I knew Ed all through med school, internship and residency and I don’t ever recall seeing him laugh,” one doctor says. “Certainly not at anything on television. I’ll tell you what would make him laugh. If he had a patient come over from University and they had made a mistake in the diagnosis. It would be like, ‘Hah, hah, I guess we showed them.’
“I can’t remember Ed telling a dirty joke. Or talking about women or sex. Now, we’ve got some doctors who try to pinch every nurse. But that certainly wasn’t Ed. I never saw him take as much as a glance at one.”
But, by the time he was in his residency, Jackson was already making an impression on some nurses. “Ed was more like an old-time physician,” a colleague says. “He could be very demanding. He could also be quite sarcastic.” One nurse explains, “It was like you were never good enough to ask him a question. He could cut you down real quick.” To nurses who asked questions he deemed rather obvious, Jackson might reply with a total non sequitur like, “Christmas trees, Christmas trees,” that amused him and humiliated the nurse.
“The nurses had a field day when he was arrested in 1971,” one colleague remembers. It was in August not too long after the birth of his second child, Rebecca, that Jackson’s seemingly impeccable career suddenly hung in the balance before an aghast and embarrassed Mt. Carmel board.
Jackson had been stopped by police in the University area. He was wearing a surgical mask and was carrying a flashlight, a table knife and a screwdriver. He was charged with possession of burglary tools.
At the time, Jackson told police he merely fantasized about committing robberies. Even that is hardly the kind of behavior considered acceptable for a physician.
The Mt. Carmel board talked of dropping Jackson from the residency program. They didn’t. One doctor who was there at the time speculates they backed off because of Jackson’s race. Another doctor who also was at Mt. Carmel then says it probably was because Jackson was such a hard worker and an excellent doctor. Or it may be that the situation was defused by Jackson’s agreeing to seek psychiatric help and his impending stint with the Army. He was never prosecuted on the charge.
During the sudden controversy, Jackson stayed away from the hospital for about a week. When he returned, if he felt mortified, humbled or uneasy, he masked it well.
“When he came back, it was the same old Ed,” a colleague recalls. “He could still go to the nursing station and intimidate the nurses.”
For a while the sight of Jackson might have caused nurses and doctors to wonder what the hell Jackson had been doing on the day he was arrested, but, “I don’t think anyone asked him,” a fellow resident recalls. “Even after a couple years had passed he just wasn’t the kind of guy you could sit down with over a drink and ask, ‘Ed, what was that all about, anyway?’ ”
For the most part, the wondering had ceased even before Jackson left for a two-year stint at Reynolds Army Hospital at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, an artillery base just outside of Lawton, where he would fulfill his Berry Plan commitment.
If Jackson liked anything about the military, it probably was the sense of order. His impression on some of his later co-workers was that he was almost militaristic, and he later used military time when writing on patent charts.
Jackson returned to Columbus in 1974, and as the years passed his status in the community steadily grew. He joined the staffs at both Mt.Carmel and St.Anthony hospitals. In addition, he opened an office at 1043 E. Weber Rd. “I think he wanted to practice in an area where he felt he was helping,” a friend says. He also worked at ECCO Family Health Service, a community-based health center on the east side.
He became a member of the St. Anthony board in 1978. One board member says, “He struck me as very honest, a good citizen, easy to talk with, easy to reason with. It struck me that he was more militant when he was first there, but more cooperative later on. He became one of the deliberating body.”
Jackson moved the family out of Linden into an L-shaped one-floor home at 2735 Scottwood Rd. in Berwick, an integrated east-side suburb. The Jacksons were model citizens there. He became treasurer of the Berwick Civic Association and was instrumental in setting up a neighborhood crime watch program.
Jackson and his wife, Alice, who friends say is friendlier and more outgoing than her husband, made some close friends and a number of social acquaintances over the years.
Both he and Alice gave freely of their time for field trips and other activities at Berwick Elementary school which their daughters, both excellent students, attended.
In late 1981, the family moved into an even nicer home, a one-and-a-half-story house with a stone façade at 2525 Stafford Place, a couple of blocks from their old home.
Still, the Jacksons were living a lot less lavishly than many other physicians and their families. A friend says, “I guess you’d describe them as frugal. They certainly weren’t keeping up with any Joneses. Even their house is sparsely furnished. Alice always looks nice, but they don’t spend a great deal of money on clothes.” A St.Anthony board member says of Jackson, “I always called him the polyester kid. His clothes were about Sears quality. Not bad, but certainly nothing fancy.”
In earlier days Jackson’s one indulgence had been his car. When he was an intern, and the others were driving 10-year-old Chevies or Volkswagen bugs, he had a Mercedes, which, strangely enough, was usually littered with everything imaginable. Now, his black Mercedes is 10 years old.
For all intents and purposes the Jacksons seemed to have about as low-key, four-square and bland a lifestyle as one could imagine.
A friend says, “I don’t think Ed had any hobbies. But then I think there are a lot of doctors who do nothing but be doctors.” Alice, who was active in the League of Women Voters, enjoyed bird watching and needlepoint.
Another friend says, “They seemed to be happy. I guess if you had to describe it, you’d say it was an old-fashioned marriage. Ed was in charge. He liked to have things done in a certain way. He’s kind of rigid. He had a way of life he thought was right. He’s always in control of himself. I don’t think he likes to make mistakes. Still, the girls, Rebecca and Ruth, tease him, and he tells these awful jokes. They’re never funny, they’re the kind you groan at, but that’s funny too.”
The Jacksons liked to have people over for barbecues on special occasions, and a big event of the year was Christmas, when the whole family traditionally made the rounds to call on a number of close friends. Ed would wear one green sock and one red one and be bearing the traditional gift, a brightly-wrapped coffee can full of home-baked cookies.
It must have been tough, but the Jacksons made the rounds again this Christmas, despite the fact that just three months earlier Ed had been charged with dozens of serious crimes and was believed by police to be Central Ohio’s most wanted criminal.
The coming weeks will tell whether police are right and they have at last caught the man known as the Grandview Rapist. People who have known Edward Jackson over the years have reexamined their memories of him, trying to decide whether the man with whom they’ve associated could possibly be guilty of the charges against him.
“There must be some mistake,” says Karen Schwarzwalder, a friend of the Jacksons. “It’s not the Ed Jackson I know. If it is, then he’s two people.”
One of his former colleagues, though, says, “When I heard about it, I wasn’t shocked. You could tell that something was a little bit off base.”
Another physician says, “The rapist would have had to research things out. He would have had to be pretty smart and thorough not to get caught all these years. If anybody could pull it off, it would be Ed.”
“He may have thrown away a brilliant medical career, a family . . . what more could this guy want out of life?” a St. Anthony board member wonders. “If he is guilty of these crimes, it’s a tragedy.”
John Maher is a staff writer for Columbus Monthly.