Henry Melody Jackson Jr. was born on December 12, 1912. He was born in Columbus, Mississippi. He had a large family. He was the 11th child among 15 brothers and sisters. Henry was born to Henry Jackson Sr and America Jackson. His father was a sharecropper. Henry Jr. was of African-American, Irish and Native American descent from his paternal side. From his maternal side, he was Iroquois (Native American). When he was very young, at the age of 4, he had to move with his family to St. Louis.In St. Louis his grandmother took care of him after his mother, America, died.