Jimmy Lee Jackson was born in Marion, Alabama, in December 1938. A farm labour and church deacon, Jackson was active in the civil rights movement.
On 18th February, 1965, Jackson, his mother, Viola Jackson, and grandfather, eighty-two year old Cager Lee Jackson, took part in a protest demonstration led by Reverend C. T. Vivian in favour of African American voter registration. The marchers were attacked by state troopers and both Jackson's mother and grandfather were hit with billy clubs. When Jackson went to help them he was shot in the stomach by a state trooper. Jackson was arrested and charged with assault and battery before being taken to hospital.
Jimmie Lee Jackson died of his wounds on 26th February, 1965, at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma. After Jackson's death the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) decided to hold the Selma to Montgomery protest march in March, 1965.