Jill Biden and Robin Jackson became fast friends.
The pair met in May 2019, when Biden attended services with her husband, now-President Joe Biden, at Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia, South Carolina. Jackson’s husband, Reverend Charles B. Jackson Sr., has served at the church for 50 years.
Jackson told USA TODAY that she noticed both Bidens getting emotional during the service. Joe Biden reached over to explain that the choir “reminds me of my son’s funeral.”
Beau Biden, Joe Biden’s son from his first marriage, died in 2015 from brain cancer at age 46.
“Somehow I felt that Jill was a little emotional in the in the service, having been there myself, been touched by the music as well as the preaching,” Jackson told USA TODAY. “I felt compelled to just say to her, ‘Would you mind me being your prayer partner?’”
Jackson described Jill Biden as being “easy to talk with” and immediately “very approachable.” She began texting the now-first lady on Wednesdays as Biden campaigned with her husband during the 2020 race for the White House.
“I would always text her and say that ‘I’m lifting you up in prayer,’” Jackson said. “She would respond back to say to me ‘Thank you, my friend,’ and that just continued.
“After learning about Beau and his death, then I fully understood now what the pain was,” Jackson said. “My texts would always reflect on knowing that you can get through this and knowing that it will be okay.”
Jackson began including Biden in her morning prayers too.
“I would never leave her out of my day of prayer,” Jackson said. “And so as I prayed for my family, as I prayed for other things in my life, I would make sure that Jill’s name was called in prayer.”
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A surprise reunion
During a visit to Brookland Baptist Church last week, Biden said her friendship with Jackson has “shaped my life.”
“I don’t know if she could still see the grief that I feel still hides behind my smile,” Biden said of their first meeting. “But I do know that when she spoke it was as if God was saying to me: ‘OK, Jill, you had enough time. It’s time to come home.’”
Biden explained that she felt “betrayed” and “broken” after Beau Biden’s death, and she has previously said her friendship with Jackson “really helped me find my faith again.”
The visit on Sunday, Oct. 17 was a surprise for Jackson. The White House did not publicly announce the trip, and Jackson was told that police presence near the church was due to Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., attending services, according to multiple reports.
“When she came Sunday, I was just stunned to know that she would be there, and, of course, my family kept it from me. And so when I saw her, we embraced each other,” Jackson said.
First ladies and educators:
Jackson and Biden don’t just share a title of first lady – one being the first lady of Brookland Baptist Church and the other the first lady of the United States. They are also both longtime educators.
Biden, an English professor, has made history as the first wife of the president to pursue her career and keep a paying job while living in the White House and serving as first lady.
Jackson taught music in schools for 28 years. She retired in 2008, and she is also the owner of the Arts-in-Action Music Studio in West Columbia.
“That is something that we both share, as educators, knowing that we have a passion for teaching and a passion for assuring that students, children receive the best in education,” Jackson said.
Jackson called Biden “a true friend.”
“I’m glad that God has planned it this way,” she said. “It’s all God that we are able to support each other and be there for each other and be sincere and true sisters.”
Contributing: Associated Press