Gator Nation News

Q&A with Yolanda Cash Jackson

A successful lawyer and lobbyist on the lessons that have guided her life

WHO: Yolanda Cash Jackson

WHAT SHE DOES: State lobbying at Becker & Poliakoff. Her clients include AT&T, safety net hospitals, red light cameras, Dade and Broward school districts and 12 municipalities. They also have a Washington, D.C., practice that represents Univision and Fox Corp. “We’re a full-service law firm with a specialization in government relations,” she says.

LOBBYING ACHIEVEMENTS:  This year, they lobbied and secured $20M in recurring funds for private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Florida.

Successful 30-year lobbyist Yolanda Cash Jackson (BSJ ’80, JD ’90) recently inspired UF law alumni to launch a scholarship drive. She hopes the effort will add more diversity to the legal profession.

This summer, more than 30 years after Yolanda Cash Jackson (BSJ ‘80, JD ’90) turned one of her biggest disappointments into a career change that allowed her to fulfill her destiny, she stood before UF graduates and explained how sometimes “setbacks are setups.”

Today, the Gator, attorney and successful lobbyist encourages all young people to stand up for themselves and seize opportunities that will help them fulfill their destinies as well. She inspired her fellow UF law alumni to help her fund a scholarship for graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in an effort to bring more diversity to the legal profession. Jackson and two other Black UF law alumni, Paul Perkins (JD ’91) and Greg Francis (BA ’91, JD ’94), both of Orlando, launched the scholarship with a $100,000 investment. “When we went to UF, we were breaking barriers,” she says. “Now, it’s time for us to help the next generation.”

In the few months since then, UF alumni have contributed more than $1.2 million. Their goal is $2 million, which would support 10 law students each year.

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You were 29 years old when you decided to enroll at UF’s law school. What was behind this decision?
At work, I had just been passed over for a promotion, which was given to my male counterpart, who had no college degree. I was tired of being undervalued and underestimated. What resulted proved to be my greatest personal triumph.
Why do you love your job?
I love the relationships I’ve forged over the last 30 years with lawmakers and state government staff. I also love being able to influence laws and make right the things that are wrong.
What would you like to see this UF law scholarship achieve?
A perpetual, long-term path for predominantly Black students to become lawyers at UF’s law school. Black people have excelled because of lawyers, but we still have so few. (See sidebar.)
What lesson(s) has/have truly guided your life?
Stay the course. Don’t be afraid to be first. Dare to be different. Never let your fear be greater than your faith. I live by that one every day.
What do few people know about you?
I’m the widow of former UF football linebacker Fernando Jackson (BA ’88), No. 49, who died unexpectedly in December 1994. He was 34. It happened just 12 days after my father, James Cash, died. Fernando was a teacher and coach at North Miami High School. He encouraged me to get my law degree and even took up another job driving a frozen-food truck while I was in law school.

Jackson’s late husband, UF linebacker Fernando Jackson from Blountstown, was known for his hard-hitting, explosive tackles. A three-year starter, he finished his UF career with 353 tackles (7th in UF history) and nine forced fumbles (tied for 3rd in UF history).

Who do you admire?
My mom. Because of the pandemic and her health, I’ve been living with her. She has dementia, and she can’t remember herself, but she will sit down at the piano and play for hours on end. When I was growing up, she ran our house like a Fortune 500 company. She’s super smart, still a size 6, and she is amazing! If I’m like that at 89, then I’ll have no worries.
What makes you proud to be a Gator?
We are No. 6! I don’t think I could get into UF now (laughing). The achievements the school has made are phenomenal. I love the Association of Black Alumni, not because I’m so Blackish, but because it’s there. Back when I attended UF, we used to go to FAMU’s homecoming because we didn’t feel a part of UF’s homecoming. Now, ABA hosts a breakfast and other activities just for us.
What great challenge would you like to help solve in your lifetime?
Encourage more women and Black women to get involved as lobbyists. There are so few of us. To me there is much to do to make women feel valued and included in the political process.
How do you define success?
The real winner is always the giver – the one who finds a way to share in the glory. I have tried to always say “yes,” and find that opens doors for me still today. For example, I got a phone call asking if I’d participate in a radio show to represent what’s going on in Florida. Turns out, I ended up on the show with Donna Brazile (political strategist and former two-time chair of the Democrat National Committee), Star Jones (TV personality, lawyer and journalist), Alexis Herman (labor secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency), Glenda Glover (Tennessee State University president) and others. I’m sitting there going, “Wow.” If I would have said “no” to that request or “What am I gonna get?” I would have really missed out on something special.

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