Born in Buffalo, NY, in 1916, comic child actor Jackson broke into show business by performing “The Shimmy” for a bag of groceries at Central Avenue’s Rosebud Theater in 1923.
Jackson’s claim to fame came when he played what has become the immortal Pineapple character in Hal Roach’s Our Gang (a.k.a. The Little Rascals) shorts in the mid-1920s. In 1926, when his contract ended, Jackson went on to work for Mack Sennett and became the only African-American child in the Buster Brown comedies. He also worked alongside silent film star Mary Pickford, in Little Annie Rooney.
In addition to his film work, Jackson took his talent (which also included singing, dancing and playing various musical instruments) to the vaudeville circuit, touring under the billing of “Hollywood’s most famous colored kid star.”
The ever-busy Jackson continued to work in the entertainment field up through his senior years, and was occasionally seen on television in such shows as Julia and Sanford and Son. In 1998, Jackson published his autobiography, Eugene Pineapple Jackson: His Own Story, chronicling his life and career that spanned eight decades and crossed several areas of show business and various genres of film and television, including Westerns.
During the 1930s, Jackson was seen frequently in Oaters. He played Gene Autry’s sidekick, Eightball, in Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Guns and Guitars and Red River Valley. He also worked with John Wayne in The Big Trail (the Duke’s first starring role) and The Lonely Trail. Most importantly, Jackson appeared in the first Western in history to ever win and Academy Award® — Cimarron, starring Richard Dix. Jackson’s son, actor-camera operator Eugene III, carried on the Western tradition when he appeared in Andrew McLaglen’s classic Shenandoah, with James Stewart.
A few years ago, Jackson established studios in both Compton and Pasadena, where he taught dance. He died of a heart attack in Compton, California on October 26, 2001. Jackson was a true talent, a fine gentleman, and a God-fearing family man. He was 84.