''Jesse is a man with guts. I'm glad he's running. And I like the idea that he's using Mel King and his followers to help,'' says Bostonian Marva Nathan of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's run for president.
Mr. King is the Melvin H. King who last fall became the first black candidate to be a finalist for mayor of Boston. Mr. Jackson has named him to co-chair his Massachusetts campaign, has adopted King's ''rainbow coalition'' (of Hispanics, Asians, whites, and others) as part of his own national effort, and has taken on many King campaign workers.
Jackson backers from around New England gathered in Boston Friday for two major events, the opening of a downtown headquarters and a $100-a-person reception at the Parker House hotel. Both events were attended by supporters from New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut, as well as Massachusetts.
At the conclusion of a brief question-and-answer period Jackson said:
''I don't want to give you the impression that I know everything. I have come here to learn and share. Join our rainbow coalition and its research, and we shall help you find solutions.''
People at the jammed reception cheered. Then a number of them volunteered to give $1,000 fund-raising parties for the Jackson campaign. These included the Rev. Jack Mendelsohn, the white Unitarian minister who accompanied Jackson to Syria on the mission that freed Lt. Robert O. Goodman Jr., a captured US Navy flyer.
Jackson said a major campaign goal is to raise $1 million in order to receive federal matching funds. His Washington headquarters reportedly has $400,000 in the till.
In New England, the Jackson campaign has enlisted:
* Black and white clergy to form a network of followers.
* Politically oriented individuals to work with two national Jackson campaign workers, Melvin Reynolds and Darnell Goldson.
The campaign aims to raise money and recruit voters for the Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary in March - not from blacks alone, but from a rainbow coalition.
''To achieve these goals we must earn credibility as a serious (campaign),'' says Alvin Poussaint, Jackson's other co-chairman for Massachusetts. Dr. Poussaint, a Harvard Medical School dean and psychiatrist, adds that Jackson is now in the spotlight for the Goodman mission.
''American voters will soon learn that Jesse . . . is alert to national and local issues as well as international,'' he says. Poussaint hints the next major Jackson push is likely to be an attack on the hunger problem.
Among Jackson's national campaign team is Thomas I. Atkins of Boston, general counsel for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). The NAACP has not endorsed Jackson, but Benjamin L. Hooks, its executive director, has praised his candidacy.
The American Muslim Mission (once known as Black Muslims) also has lauded the Jackson campaign, but wants to be sure that Jackson is a ''serious candidate.''
Why do some people support Jackson?
''He's not likely to win, but I believe in his campaign slogan, 'Our time has come,' '' says Elois Woodley, a former King worker and an enthusiastic Jackson supporter.
''Jesse is a very special person to -e, a man who has not given up on the Martin Luther King dream,'' says the Rev. Mr. Mendelsohn.
Members of the Bolling family - Royal Sr., a state senator; Royal Jr., a state representative; and Bruce, a Boston city councillor - have sent letters to 3,000 black local and state officials urging support for Jackson.
Adds Poussaint, ''Jesse is a preacher-politician. His campaign also is training black people in . . . politics, winning delegates, and raising money. . . .''