When an American TV network wanted to make a miniseries about the Jackson familyâ€™s life in 1992, Michael Jackson had one major requirement before he would give his blessing: The person who was to play his mother had to be very beautiful.
The superstar adored Katherine Jackson, who ended up being portrayed by Angela Bassett in the miniseries. Not only does Jacksonâ€™s will designate her as the guardian of his three children, but she is the only person, other than his children, to inherit a share of his estate.
Katherine had sought to retain control of MJâ€™s assets, but a judge ruled Monday that attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain had been designated in a 2002 will as the people he wanted to administer his estate. MJ died June 25. He had a fractious relationship at times with various family members and other confidants, but friends say he saw his mother as the one flawless, angelic constant in his life.
A Jehovahâ€™s Witness, Katherine Jackson, 79, is universally described as a gentle, loving matriarch who has doted on her family and fought to keep them united through tough times.
Born Katherine Scruse, she was raised in Chicago and overcame polio as a child (she still walks with a slight limp). She married Joe Jackson at 19 and they had 10 children (Marlon Jackson had a twin who died shortly after birth) in Gary, Indiana.
Katherine and Joe are still married and recently marked their 60th anniversary. But their relationship has long been difficult and they have not lived together for years, according to a close friend of the singer who did not want to be identified. Though it was Joe Jackson who managed Michael and his brothers to early stardom, Michael credited his mother with giving him his vocal gifts. He described her as a pianist and singer in her own right who was the first to identify and encourage her childrenâ€™s musical talents.
â€œEvery child thinks their mother is the greatest mother in the world, but we Jacksons never lost that feeling,â€ Jackson wrote in Moonwalk, his 1988 autobiography. â€œBecause of Katherineâ€™s gentleness, warmth and attention, I canâ€™t imagine what itâ€™s like to grow up without a motherâ€™s love.â€
MJâ€™s three children have not had their biological mothers in their lives. But people close to the Jacksons say Katherine has an incredibly close relationship with her grandchildren, perhaps more than anyone else in her late sonâ€™s life.
â€œShe was never out of favour (with Michael), so she was able to spend a lot more time with the kids than anybody else,â€ said J. Randy Taraborrelli, a friend of Jackson and author of the biography The Magic and the Madness.
Katherine was by her sonâ€™s side through some of his greatest triumphs and tragedies, from his stunning Thriller success to his 2005 acquittal of child molestation charges.
â€œThey just loved each other unconditionally,â€ said Taraborrelli. â€œEven when he was illogical in some of his decisions . . . she didnâ€™t care, she just defended him and supported him without reservation his entire life.â€
Michael lived with his mother, along with siblings Joe, Janet and LaToya, at the familyâ€™s Encino, California, compound until he was almost 30. After he moved to his vast Neverland estate, his mother remained part of his inner circle.
Family attorney L. Londell McMillan said Jackson trusted his mother completely and wanted to make sure she was always well provided for. â€œMichael would often say, â€˜Please make sure you help me to protect and take care of my children and my mother,â€™â€ McMillan said.
Rob Goldstone, a former Jackson publicist who spent time on the road with him during his 1989 Bad tour, described him as â€œa mommaâ€™s boy. He loved his mom.â€
â€œThe one thing that was very apparent that everywhere we went, he would want to go shopping and buy something, and his mom was the one he wanted to buy something special for,â€ he recalled.
Joe was the parental figure who spent the most time with Michael during his formative years because Katherine did not go out on the road with the Jackson 5, staying at home to raise LaToya, Janet and Randy.
But the mild-mannered mother would stand up to her husband and defend their children when she thought things were getting out of control, Taraborrelli said.
â€œSheâ€™s very strong, and a very powerful woman who would stand up to Joe,â€ he said. â€œThatâ€™s the only reason why it worked. . . . She had the tenacity to defy him when it really mattered.â€
Now that Katherine has been granted temporary guardianship of her grandchildren, some wonder what influence Joe might play in their lives. A person with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified, said the children have a loving relationship with their grandfather, but that Katherine would be their primary caregiver.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Katherine had already assumed the role, shopping for clothes for her grandchildren over the weekend.
â€œSheâ€™s doing very well,â€ he said. â€œShe is the matriarch of this family. She is so deep in her religion. She has a real insulation, not an isolation, kind of a spiritual, so she sees her family in the broader sense and all of them kind of gravitating a certain way to mom as they were.â€
The Canadian press
Michael was a mamaâ€™s boy