Mr Jackson, who is 57, had explored the possibility of running again in recent months but said yesterday he had decided to devote himself instead to his campaign to improve opportunities for black and ethnic minority representation in the Wall Street financial establishment. He had told the black television network, BET, at the weekend that he did not feel "very motivated" to run. He made the decision public yesterday on the website of his son, Jesse Jackson Jnr, who is an Illinois Congressman.
Mr Jackson's decision ends hopes harboured by the civil rights generation that it could provide America's first black President, and passes the baton of black representation in national politics to the next generation. This includes not only Jesse Jackson Jnr, who is political heir to his father, but young black professionals of a very different stamp, such as the Republican Congressman from Oklahoma, J C Watts.
Associates of Mr Jackson insisted that he would continue to wield influence in the White House, whoever was elected to the presidency. "The Rev Jackson doesn't have to be a candidate to make an impact," one adviser said yesterday.
Mr Jackson has been a spiritual adviser to the Clinton family through the Monica Lewinsky trauma. He reportedly consoled Hillary Clinton and Chelsea on the eve of Mr Clinton's televised admission of the affair, and acted as a go-between, conveying to themedia how the family was coping with the strain.Reuse content