The apparent suicide note left by Robert “Spence” Jackson, the spokesman for the Missouri auditor’s office, was a brief last gasp.
“I’m so sorry,” it said. “I just can’t take being unemployed again.”
A Jefferson City Police Department captain read the note to reporters Tuesday at the request of Jackson’s family, who wanted to quell the rumors and political intrigue that went into overdrive as word of Jackson’s death leaked out Sunday night and was confirmed on Monday.
Jackson was hired for his job in the auditor’s office by Tom Schweich, who fatally shot himself in his home in Clayton, Mo., a month ago.
The backdrop to both apparent suicides is an intra-party feud buffeting the Missouri GOP. Although he was one of only two Republicans to hold statewide office, Schweich had been running for governor as an outsider candidate, while the party establishment had lined up behind former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway.
Schweich was distraught by some attacks against him, and he told people that John Hancock, the newly elected chairman of the state Republican Party, had been conducting a “whisper campaign,” telling people falsely that Schweich was Jewish. Hancock has said he mistakenly thought that Schweich, who is Episcopalian, was Jewish, and might have mentioned that in conversation.
People who knew Jackson said he was agitated about Schweich’s death and the failure of the state Republican Party to make any changes. After Schweich’s funeral, Jackson publicly called for Hancock to be removed as the party chairman, but that didn’t happen.
Jackson faced the likely prospect of being out of a job when Gov. Jay Nixon names someone to serve as auditor for the rest of Schweich’s term. As political officeholders, auditors generally hire their own executive teams, while retaining the veteran state employees who do the actual work of auditing.
And maybe Jackson knew his fierce remarks in defense of his late boss would make it difficult to find another job with a Republican officeholder in Missouri. He had previously worked as a communications director for Matt Blunt, both in the secretary of state and governor’s offices.
Jackson could have torn the party further asunder with a different type of note. By writing what he did, he has made his death a sad coda to Schweich’s shocking end.
It was Jackson’s job to confirm Schweich’s death to the media on Feb. 26.
“It is with great sadness that I confirm the passing of Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich today,” he wrote. “Please keep in mind his wife, Kathy, and two children.”
I was impressed with the way Jackson handled the communications in the wake of the auditor’s death. He quickly fielded every phone call and email and made sure reporters were quickly briefed on funeral arrangements and other developments. He was also willing to share fond stories about his boss.
Around the time of Schweich’s funeral, I sent Jackson an email telling him I thought he’d held up admirably during a difficult time.
“Thanks,” he emailed back. Just that.
Now, Jackson’s death serves as a sad reminder that people don’t always reflect on the outside what’s going on inside, and we should be careful how we treat one another.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bshelly.