A South Los Angeles business owner who became better known for his generosity, including a turkey giveaway that brought smiles and holiday meals to thousands each year, has died at age 66.
E.J. Jackson, founder and president of Jackson Limousine, died Tuesday when he suffered a heart attack, according to family members. He was remembered Wednesday as a kind and generous man who started his own successful limousine service, but looked out for others in the community.
"His legacy will live on, and on behalf of our family, I want to say thank you so much for showing your love and sharing my father's love," said Jackson's youngest son Tyron. "I learned so much from him, and this is the hardest thing right now."
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Jackson started his limo service more than 30 years ago, then began the E.J. Jackson Foundation as a way to help residents in South Los Angeles. The centerpiece of the foundation is the annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, which began in 1982 and became one of Southern California's most prominent charitable events during the holidays.
It will go on as scheduled this year on Nov. 22. The foundation is still asking for donations of turkeys and other meal fixings.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called Jackson an "inspiration" and a "role model."
"The holidays in L.A. won't be the same without E.J. on the streets at sunrise, making sure everyone's basket is full," Garcetti said. "He set a timeless example for us to follow, and we can honor his legacy by building on the tradition he started and committing ourselves every day to making a difference in the lives of our families, friends and neighbors."
A few hundred turkeys were offered during the event's early years, but volunteers now provide about 12,000 meals, including groceries. The event attracts an army of volunteers, local elected officials and celebrities, who help prepare the food boxes and distribute the meals.