The first thing Eddie bought for himself with his new windfall of cash was a candy apple red Fleetwood Cadillac, the ultimate sign that you had made it as a big time player in inter-cities across the country. Then, with the enough cash stacked to establish a payroll, he put together a skilled crew of soldiers and lieutenants to help maintain and grow his business operations.
At the top of the food chain were Eddie’s brother, Elijah and his childhood best friend Courtney Brown, and who left his job as a city bus driver and labor union representative to join up in the drug world with the Jackson brothers. Brown, who Eddie called, “The Field Marshall” due to his pal’s love of military history or “Birmingham Brown” as a reference to a comic strip character of their youth, would be the organization’s defacto “consiglieri” and chief financial officer for the next decade and a half. Always a phone call away and often utilized by both Jackson and Brown as a go-to advisor was an old timer named Richard “The Penguin” Wakefield.
Underneath them were top street lieutenants like Ronald “Five-O” Garrett, Charles “The Great Dolph” Rudolph, and Russell “Rango” Clayton and enforcers like Thomas “Black Butch” Sharpe, Eddie’s bodyguard and most-trusted strong arm and William “Big Willie” Kilpatrick. It was a mighty fearsome bunch with brains, brawn and guts. The Fat Man’s crew was complete.
Interestingly enough, Brown, who would go onto to be Eddie’s longtime right hand man and No. 2 guy in the organization, was the last to come on board, the final holdout from a group of childhood friends who had slowly turned their backs on living a legitimate life. Up until 1970, a good year into Jackson’s rise up the underworld latter, Brown had resisted the temptation, counseling Eddie and Elijah on business affairs, but never fully embracing their new endeavor and certainly not asking to be a part of it.
That all changed in the fall of 1970, when frustrated by the bureaucracy and politics of his job with the city and exhausted from working his fingers to the bone for little pay as a bus driver, he went to Eddie and asked to come on board full-time. Having already helped his best friend tremendously as a part-time sounding board and business counselor, it was a no brainer to bring The Field General into the fold officially.
Jackson, Brown, Garrett, Rudolph and Clayton called themselves “The Fabulous Five” and the organization they were building, was dubbed, “The Empire.” The group of likeminded young and street savvy men took off with reckless abandon, Brown, Garrett, Rudolph, and Clayton following the lead of their boss, The Fat Man, who had already made all the crucial inroads and connections in the game prior to the formation of their crew.
Inspired by his father’s love of real estate, Eddie and the Empire started acquiring property and securing territory all over the city. Their reputation was solidified when wanting to expand his operations and with the help of Courtney’s keen eye, Eddie purchased an apartment building on Hancock and John R Road, right off the service drive of the I-75 expressway.
The Hancock location became the organization’s base of operations and the immediate success the tight-knit crew experienced there further tagged Eddie as an up and coming power player on the streets of Detroit. Using the top several floors to manufacture his product and the bottom several floors to sell it, the red brick, colonial-style building became a 24 hour drug den that racked up a steady flow of daily profits due to the quality and cheapness of the drugs being sold.
Celebrating their good fortunes and soaring business prospects, Eddie and Courtney bought neighboring estates in an upscale subdivision of houses in Southfield, the city that borders Detroit proper directly to the north, and raised their families side by side in caucasion- dominated suburbia, instead of in the city where they were plying their illicit trade in. Elaborate vacations and impromptu excursions to sporting events and music concerts became the norm for the pair and their families.
“Eddie Jackson really epitomized the post-riot underworld in the city,” McKinnon said. “Overnight, this guy went from a nobody to a millionaire. It was literally in a matter of months. He was just a kid from the neighborhood with a lot of ambition and street smarts. Before the riots in 1967, a young man like that might have gone the other way and have become a real success in the legitimate world. But the kids got disillusioned and people were moving out of the city, just as fast as the hustlers and big time dealers were coming in. They looked up to people like Marzette and Claxton, not the guy working the line shift at Ford.”
Everything seemed perfect and as 1971 began it was. Then, like a sudden earthquake, the ground which Eddie was footed became unstable and the way he made a living was put in jeopardy. Some of the cause of this instability had to do with Eddie personally. Most of it didn’t. No matter what the cause the fact was that the streets were engulfed in a war and Eddie and Courtney, although for all intents and purposes neutral in the dispute, were about to experience some collateral damage. And things were going to get worse before they got better.
A man of a short temper who had a penchant for holding grudges for even the smallest perceived slight, John Claxton was angered by how close Eddie had become to Henry Marzette. In Claxton’s mind, he had brought Jackson into the game and it was at his doorstep Jackson’s loyalty should lay. The fact that Marzette had swooped in and claimed Jackson as his protégé as well incensed him. The fact that he was encroaching upon his territory as Marzette’s favorite social companion, downright drove him crazy. Instead of Gentlemen John sitting next to Marzette at Marzette’s headquarters The Safari Room, a popular lounge and bar on Dexter, it was now Jackson. Instead of Claxton accompanying Marzette on his favored bi-costal jaunts, it was Eddie and Courtney.