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James Melvin Jackson

June 4, 2011

“I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”
James Melvin Jackson, 86, went to be with his Lord Jesus Christ, Thursday, June 2, 2011, in Brandon after battling multiple illnesses for several months. From Oct. 2001 until Feb. 25, 2011, he lived at Ridgeland PTE Assisted Living Center in Ridgeland (his beloved wife died Jan. 1, 2001.) Here he became known as everyone’s friend and encourager and the “Birthday Card Man,” (He quietly gave a handwritten birthday card to each and every one of the 100 residents every year.)
Mr. Jackson was born on his family’s farm in Copiah County on July 18, 1924 to the late Jim and Clara Hutson Jackson. From an early age, he showed a love for learning and developed a desire to help others learn, too. Therefore, after he finished high school and Co-Lin Jr. College in Wesson, he entered Mississippi College in Clinton on academic and work scholarships. He was very proud to be the official “Bell-Ringer” for the college, and eagerly ran across campus every hour to ring the big school bell to mark the start each class every day. He said he felt very tickled to get out of each class five minutes early.
He served in the Unites States Army during WWII between his years at Co-Lin and the last two at Mississippi College. He later married Vivian Pauline Nason of Sturgis whose mother, Mrs. John D. Nason I, said he loved him like a son and whom he said he loved like a second mother.  He enjoyed spending much time with her during his retirement years while she needed extra care, which he was so honored to give her, and he loved her with all his heart. They also had fun together, either at checkers or watching ballgames.
Mr. Jackson also loved music. His beautiful baritone (bass or tenor, if needed) voice was part of boys’ and men’s quartets in high school, Jr. College, Sr. college, and at his different churches throughout his adult life.  For the first half of his adult life, in addition to his work as school principal, he also was song leader at various community revivals around the state as his wife “Polly” played the piano.  In later years he and Polly enjoyed singing in the church choir at 1st Baptist in Starkville. Also, in retirement, he, along with his wife, ministered to the sick and elderly of their church and city, visiting those in the hospital and nursing homes.  He always offered his help at any time of need to anyone he knew. He watched over Polly’s parents and siblings throughout the years as much as he did his own. He didn’t cease that activity even during the ten years since Polly’s death. He helped with the responsibilities of family leader and shepherd of both his and Polly’s families. Invariably, it was his beautiful voice that was heard asking “Grace” at most all family get-togethers, especially after his father passed away. He was always the one to “turn to” in times of crisis. He has been the family patriarch (for both families) for years. He will truly be missed. 
Mr. Jackson earned his Master of Arts in Ed. Degree at the then called “Mississippi Southern College,” in Hattiesburg in 1956. Throughout the years that he was principal, he completed multiple post-graduate courses. He never lost his love and appreciation for learning.
He always said that he felt “called” to be either a preacher or an educator.  He realized that he could combine both callings as he became one of the most respected, inspiring and influential principals in the MS counties of Pike, Warren, and Oktibbeha.  He retired after 38 1/2 years of dedicated service to the school children of Miss., his last position’s being principal of Starkville ’s Overstreet Elementary School. Mr. Jackson positively touched the lives of thousands of our state’s children, (not to mention all of his many teachers and support staffs throughout the years,) and he said that he counted that a great honor. 
Mr. Jackson accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior when he was 11 years old, being baptized in the “Baptizing Creek” (Case Creek) near his church, Sylvarena Baptist in Copiah Co., the church two sets of his of his grandparents and a pair of his great-grandparents helped to establish in 1898. He was ordained a deacon at Bogue Chitto Baptist Church in Pike Co. in 1946, and from that year until the end of his life, he diligently served in one or more of these capacities: deacon, Sunday School teacher, song director, and choir member. He took great joy in being an active member of every church community in which his career led him, always within his beloved state. As he lost most of his hearing and sight these last few years, he continued serving God as a constant prayer warrior and Christian encourager until the end of his life.
He wrote his extensive memoirs in the last seven years of his life and was pleased to be asked to frequently speak from them. He wrote and spoke on the subject, “I Remember When,” as did his father, Jim Jackson, before him.
Mr. Jackson particularly enjoyed hunting deer, turkeys, quail, and squirrels, and he really enjoyed fishing.  He also loved to reminisce about his early days as a teacher and girls’ basketball coach and the exciting times in some of the smaller rural schools in our state. “What fun!” he often exclaimed, as he related his memories of those times. He enjoyed the small and the increasingly larger schools he led through the years. He had a wonderful sense of humor along with a glorious smile.
He was a kind, compassionate, happy man, and a true Christian gentleman. He always thought the best of people and was a great “enabler of all good traits.” He loved easily and with all of his heart. He forgave freely and had a great sense of duty and responsibility. His word was his bond. He was a peacemaker. 
Mr. Jackson was preceded in death by his wife, Polly, of 56 years; his older sister, Opal Jackson Thompson, and his younger brother, Billy Jackson. He was unmatched in generosity of spirit, caring for others, and lending a “helping” hand or speaking a comforting or encouraging word.  He was an inspirational son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend.
He is survived by his daughters Marcia Jackson Cloman (Jim) of Madison and Susan Jackson Summy (Bruce) of Katy , Texas ; sister, Helen Jackson Freeman of Indianapolis, Ind.; six grandchildren: Dr James F. Cloman IV (Allison) of Richmond, Va.; Rebecca Cloman Ryness (Gar) of Los Angeles, Calif., Courtney Cloman Glynn (Mike) of Phoenix, Ariz.; Stephen Summy (Annah Mary), of Germantown, Tenn., Erin Summy Martin (Lee), of Brandon, and Erica Summy Guillory (Josh), of Pearl; and ten great-grandchildren, with the eleventh to arrive in August.
Although now absent from his earthly life, his loving spirit lives on in each of his family members and in everyone who knew him. All are confident that he is now in the presence of the Lord for eternity.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. on June 6 at the Chapel of 1st Baptist Church, Starkville with Rev. Chip Stevens and Rev. Clifton Curtis of Starkville, officiating. Visitation will be 9-11 a.m. in the Chapel, prior to services there.  Burial will follow at Wake Forest Baptist Church Cemetery in Sturgis. Welch Funeral Home in Starkville is in charge of arrangements.
The family wishes to express their deep appreciation to Dr. David Sullivan, Dr. Steve Hindman and Rhonda Meadows, Bobbye Handy and his many precious friends at Ridgeland PTE, the caring staff of Hospice Ministries, Inc., and the “three angel sitters of Rankin County.”
Flowers or memorials to 1st  Baptist Church Music Ministry may be sent to 1st Baptist Church,106 E. Lampkin St., Starkville, MS 39759.
Pallbearers are Dr. James F. Cloman IV, George Allison Ryness IV, Stephen Anthony Summy, Lee Martin, Josh Guillory, Randle Varnado, John Nason III, Glen Magee, Jr.
Honorary pallbearers are Mike Glynn, Zane Glynn, John D. Nason II, Walter Rhodus, Johnny Ball, Rev. Oliver C. Ladnier, G.B. Steele, Bain Sunday School Class members, and all of the school children touched by the life of Melvin Jackson.
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