Funeral marks Missouri auditor aide's political passion

AP News
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Posted: Apr 10, 2015 6:19 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — At the second gut-wrenching funeral in two months for Missouri politics, those who knew and worked with former auditor's spokesman Spence Jackson remembered him Friday as gregarious and passionate about his work.

Jackson's funeral in his hometown of Springfield occurred two weeks after he fatally shot himself at his Jefferson City apartment in what police describe as an apparent suicide. He died a month after his boss, state Auditor Tom Schweich, killed himself in the same way.

Schweich was seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2016 in what already was a heated primary. He had told an Associated Press reporter just minutes before his suicide that he wanted to go public with allegations that the state Republican Party chairman had made anti-Semitic remarks about him.

At Schweich's funeral last month, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth delivered a eulogy suggesting his political protege had been driven to suicide by the nasty nature of politics. Jackson had been among the first to call for GOP Chairman John Hancock to resign. Hancock has remained on the job and denied making any intentionally derogatory remarks about Schweich, who was Christian.

At Jackson's funeral, the focus was not on negative politics but on the joy that Jackson brought to his work and relationships.

Longtime friend David Warren recalled him as "kind-natured, quick-witted and just absolutely hilarious."

"Spence was never shy and always owned the room when he walked in," said friend Eric Latimer, who also spoke at the funeral.

A pastor encouraged attendees struggling to understand Jackson's death to find peace through Jesus.

Police who discovered Jackson's body say he left behind a brief hand-written note expressing concern about potentially becoming unemployed.

Although he remained at the auditor's office after Schweich's death, it was possible that Jackson could have been laid off when Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon appoints a permanent replacement to Schweich. Jackson, who previously worked in Republican Gov. Matt Blunt's administration, had been out of work for a while after Blunt chose not to seek re-election in 2008. Friends have said that experience was tough on Jackson.

Blunt and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder were among the roughly 150 people who attended Jackson's funeral.

"His career and job consumed him and was his life, and he gave it his all," said Schweich's chief of staff, Trish Vincent, who had recommended Jackson's hiring in 2011.

Jackson was single and is survived by his mother and sister, among others.

"As social as he was, he was also very private regarding his own worries, stresses and disappointments," said Jackson's sister, Mandy Gray Keller.

Jackson began his political career in 1992 by volunteering on the unsuccessful attorney general's campaign of David Steelman. He later worked for U.S. Sens. Kit Bond and John Ashcroft, for Blunt as he rose from secretary of state to governor and for the unsuccessful 2008 gubernatorial campaign of Steelman's wife, Sarah Steelman.

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