Paul Jackson is Citizen of Year

Published 5:00 am Friday, April 30, 2004

Paul Jackson is a man of vision.

He’s able to look at what any natural eye can see and turn itinto something no one else could have ever conceived. He did it forhis construction company, and he did it for the Inez Hotel. Mostrecently, he did it for the veterans military museum.

Jackson’s passion for Brookhaven and his efforts to make it abetter place have earned him the honor of being The DAILY LEADER’SCitizen of the Year. Those close to him say he is trulydeserving.

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“I have known Paul for many years, served with him on manyworthwhile committees of the city, county and his church. I havenever had him refuse to serve on projects and worthwhile endeavorsof this community,” said Millard Smith.

Charles and Virginia Ratliff added, “Paul loves Brookhaven.”

Born and raised in Brookhaven, Jackson grew up the son of abricklayer. He spent his early years learning about constructionfrom his father, Lucius, and studying the architecture ofBrookhaven. His mother was Beatrice Jackson.

In 1943, he graduated from Brookhaven High School and wasdrafted into the Army that same year. He served in Europe duringWorld War II.

In his military tenure, he served as a light machine gunner inthe European Theatre. He also participated in the campaigns atNormandy, Northern France and the Ardennes. He was discharged in1946 with a Bronze Star as a token of his gallant service.

When he returned home, he went to Whitworth College from1947-48, married Charlotte Warren and also worked with his fatherin bricklaying.

In 1953, he started his own construction company on theprompting of his father, who encouraged his son to follow in histracks and stay in the field. In its beginnings, the businessincluded only a Ford pick-up truck and a wheelbarrow.

Jackson’s first contract job was building a little grocery storeon Brookhaven’s Washington Street. He and Jesse Barnes constructedthe entire building themselves, with the exception of puttingshingles on the roof. The contract for the job was etched in pencilon one of the grocery store’s paper bags, which Jackson kept untilthe writing smeared and was no longer legible.

From there, Jackson went out to bid for work. When he didn’t getgeneral contracting orders, he did masonry for projects. He didwhat he could to make a living since the war slowed constructionactivity.

In the 1950s and 60s, construction picked up, and Jacksonstarted collaborating with Moreton and Pell, one of the majorcontractors during that time. If they had a job and couldn’t get toit, then they’d give Jackson a chance at it. Around this time, histwo children, Jennifer and Paul W., were born.

One of the first major projects he built was SagewoodSubdivision in the mid-1970s. Eastgate Drive, severalmini-storages, Country Manor Apartments, and post offices at Sontagand Union Church followed.

Jackson’s construction company incorporated in 1979, one yearbefore his pinnacle purchase of the Inez Hotel in 1980. Jackson andthe late John W. “Dub” Sproles, along with several other investors,bought The Inez from Mississippi College. D.A. Biglane, who hadbought The Inez in 1945, had donated the building to the school in1974.

The renovation began on Dec. 20, 1986. Real estate agent BetsySmith helped with plans, and Jean Rose Smith became The Inezapartment’s first tenant in July 17, 1987.

In November 2003, Jackson sold The Inez to local developers JohnLynch and Keith White.

Residents say Jackson will forever be recognized for his effortsat the Inez.

“We all know how he saved the old Inez Hotel, which has been thecenter of Brookhaven for well over a century,” said John PaulSmith. “Without his foresight, it could be sitting there as aneyesore like the King Edward is in Jackson. His love for anddedication to preserving the history of Brookhaven in many waysgoes unsung.”

Jackson also played a part in preserving the Whitworth Collegecampus, which has become the Mississippi School of the Arts, andtransforming the old railroad depot into a military museum forveterans.

The four-room museum houses memorabilia from past wars. Most ofthe items are World War II keepsakes from local veterans.

Everything from weapons to uniforms to newspaper clippings havebeen donated by veterans to be displayed, and more mementos fromwars come in daily, said Jackson and Chad Smith, who helped foundthe museum along with Eric Boyd.

The museum has grown so much that organizers are constantlyseeking storage and display cases to show off some of the itemsthat are flooding in by vets. And a yearly military parade heldaround Memorial Day has been organized, culminating at thefacility.

Jackson said the museum would not be able to survive without thecountless volunteers who open its doors every Tuesday, Thursday andSaturday.

“We couldn’t have done it without all the people,” he said.

Jackson officially turned his construction company over to hisson, who has been working with him since 1979, in 1996. His sonsaid his father’s work ethics and character have been as solid asthe buildings he has constructed.

“There’s not a lot of nonsense about him, and he isn’tpretentious,” said Paul W., who describes his father as being”homebound” and “immersed with his family and coffee clubbuddies.”

His daughter also offers praise.

“There’s not a better father in the world. It’s a blessing tohave a daddy who is so kind and caring and someone I am so proudof. I’m proud to be his daughter,” said Jennifer JacksonWhittier.

Family is very important to the 79-year-old retired businessman.He and his wife have three grandchildren, Lindsey and CarlyWhittier and John Paul Jackson, whom they love being around.

“He is a humble man, good husband, father, grandfather andfriend to all,” said Catherine Dickey, about Jackson.

Next to family, church and serving others are top priorities forJackson. He has been a deacon at First Baptist Church since thelate 1950s, and frequently visits the sick in hospitals and nursinghomes.

“Paul is a Christian gentleman. He is very generous with histime and resources,” Dickey added.

Although Jackson may not have sought recognition for hisefforts, long-time friend Millard Smith said others have noticedand appreciate what he has done.

“He has the respect of all the people who really know him … asa leader, advisor and caring person,” Smith said.