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Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson? The Supreme Court nominee with Florida ties

Before securing a nomination to the nation's highest court, Jackson got her start in the Sunshine State.

WASHINGTON — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was officially nominated to the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon, making her the first Black woman selected to serve on the nation's highest court.

“She strives to be fair, to get it right, to do justice,” President Joe Biden said Friday while introducing Jackson.

Jackson would be the current court’s second Black justice — Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative, is the other — and just the third in history. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would replace liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, who is retiring at the end of the term this summer. So, she won't change the court's 6-3 conservative majority.

Jackson would join the court as it weighs cutbacks to abortion rights and considers ending affirmative action in college admissions and restricting voting rights efforts to increase minority representation.

She would be only the sixth woman to serve on the court, but she would join three others already there, including the first Latina justice, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

"... I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded will inspire future generations of Americans," Jackson said while sharing her hopes if confirmed.

While her illustrious career has brought her from Harvard Law School to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Jackson got her start in Florida.

Though born in Washington, D.C., Jackson, 51, grew up in Miami and attended Palmetto Senior High School in Pinecrest.

And according to CBS Miami, she had her sights set on an accomplished law career even back then.

“I want to go into law and eventually have a judicial appointment," Jackson wrote in her senior yearbook, according to the news station.

She was also student body president and a star on the debate team.

In a 2017 lecture at the University of Georgia, Jackson credit's her Palmetto Senior High School experience for giving her "the self-confidence that can sometimes be quite difficult for women and minorities to develop at an early age.”

"I have no doubt that, of all the various things that I’ve done, it was my high school experience as a competitive speaker that taught me how to lean in, despite the obstacles," she said during the lecture.

Jackson actually traces her interest in the law to when she was in preschool and her father was in law school. They would sit together at the dining room table, she with coloring books and he with law books.

“My earliest memories are of our apartment in the married students' housing complex on the University of Miami, where my father had returned to go to law school," Jackson said in 2017.

She explained that her father, Johnny Brown, became an attorney for the Miami-Dade County School Board while her mother, Ellery Brown, was the principal at New World School of the Arts, a public magnet high school and college in Miami.

President Biden's nominee will fill the seat that will be vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer, who Jackson once worked for as a law clerk early in her legal career. After attending Harvard for undergraduate and law school, she served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the agency that develops federal sentencing policy, before becoming a federal judge in 2013. 

Jackson currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a position that Biden elevated her to last year. She was confirmed to that post on a 53-44 Senate vote, winning the backing of three Republicans: South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski. 

Another GOP connection: Jackson is also related by marriage to former House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Jackson lives with her husband, Patrick, who serves as chief of the Division of General Surgery at Georgetown University Hospital, and two daughters, in Washington, D.C.

Her nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority by a razor-thin 50-50 margin with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. Party leaders have promised swift but deliberate consideration of the president’s nominee. 

"My hope is that she continues to be a light for every little girl out there and to let them know that there is hope at the end," Yvette Lewis, NAACP Hillsborough County Branch president said.

Lewis said the historic moment may inspire young, Black girls. At this time, Lewis said it's important to acknowledge how resilient Jackson must have been in her life to achieve this nomination. 

If confirmed, she said Jackson will bring insight that no other judge at the Supreme Court has ever lived or endured.

"She will bring that perspective in hopes that change will come," Lewis said.

The Associated Press and 10 Tampa Bay reporter Miguel Octavio contributed to this report.

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