Jake is Macon and Pilate’s father and Milkman’s grandfather who, for sixteen years, toiled to create Lincoln’s Heaven, a paradise of agriculture, nature, and family. Jake was once a slave in Virginia, but left with his wife, Sing, on a wagon train going north. After the Civil War, Jake had to register as a free man, but the Yankee soldier registering him was drunk. The soldier wrote down Jake’s responses in the wrong spaces, thus renaming Jake "Macon Dead."
Jake’s father, Solomon, flew away to Africa, and upon leaving, tried to take Jake with him. But Solomon accidentally dropped him, or so the legend goes. When Sing dies right before giving birth to Pilate, Jake refuses to utter her name ever again, so Macon and Pilate never learn their mother’s name. Jake was shot dead by members of the Butler family (a group of local, white, affluent farmers), because they wanted his land, Lincoln’s Heaven. Pilate carries Jake’s bones with her and has throughout her life. Jake appears to her from time to time, giving her advice and pieces of wisdom. Eventually Pilate and Milkman bury Jake on Solomon’s Leap.