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Celebrating the people and the stories of the city we all love: Jackson, Tennessee.
I moved to Jackson a starry-eyed eighteen-year-old ready for the “real world.” I came to Union University to play volleyball and study my way to becoming a chemical engineer who would change the world with brains and athleticism. Three months into my first semester, I had quit volleyball and was failing at my chemistry courses. A few days into my second semester, a tornado blew away all my belongings, including those starry eyes.
The year was 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Jackson City Hall had separate drinking fountains for "colored" people and "white" people, and Union University and Lane College were still neighbors downtown.It was a crisp fall night in the middle of basketball season. Camille Long was one of only four African-Americans in the bleachers of the Union University gym, including the fellow Lane College student she'd dragged with her.
The first part of a wedding that a bride and groom chooses is often the venue. Availability, location, and amenities are all factors in choosing the right venue, and this guide highlights four great options in the Jackson area. As a wedding photographer, I have worked in each of these places and have personally witnessed the strengths mentioned. Each venue has been operating long enough to have the process down to a science.
It’s the Wednesday after Labor Day, and Jerry Mercer, senior director of Mercer Brothers Funeral Home, assures me his desk doesn’t always look like this. “But getting ready for the appreciation [day]…” he says, shuffling through the stacks of papers and documents in manila file folders and opened envelopes on his desk. The fax machine emits a whiny cry that reminds me of time spent in the 1990s waiting on dial up Internet, and the office phone rings continuously.
Sitting in an intro philosophy class my sophomore year at Union University, I was asked a question: Would it be ethical to sacrifice a person (or a few people) in order to find the cure for cancer? Well, yes, of course it would, I said. We’re talking about cancer, right? I was nineteen and, apparently, omniscient—or so I thought at the time. The certainty of an arrogant college student is a certainty like no other.
We’ve all seen our fair share of family-focused reality TV. Men, women, and children sign up to put their lives on display for all to see. So what does that look like in Jackson, Tennessee? The recently launched web series, Loving My 6. Now happily married for over ten years, John and Timond Williams are the parents of six children under the age of ten.
The Wizard of Oz. That’s my earliest memory of the power of a tornado. From the time I saw that witch riding a bicycle in the air with that house spinning out of control, the power of a tornado had me under its thumb. As a five-year-old, I had no idea how close I would come to that dominance that struck so much fear in me as a child. West Tennessee, and Jackson in particular, is no stranger to tornadoes. As much as we think tornadoes are an indiscriminate act of nature, they’re not.
As a lover of clothing with a longing to become a fashion designer, nothing could have deterred me from introducing myself to a group of women whose sewing flourishes with creativity and design. Most of you may know these women as none other than the Wilbourn sisters. These talented women have been a household name for the past thirty years, not only in the surrounding counties of West Tennessee but all over the globe.
While most of us are prone to toss out old things and run to the new, others are gifted with the vision to make something out of what the rest of us leave behind. Ellen Bennett, the creator of “The Restored Attic,” creates home decor and furniture pieces by repurposing found and thrifted materials. From childhood trips to yard sales with her father, she learned that she didn’t have to pay full price for anything. As she grew up, it evolved into trying to search for furniture and other pieces to decorate her home.
“For Sale” signs and broken windows adorn a large portion of buildings within Jackson’s city limits. Right next to thriving businesses can be found abandoned restaurants or forgotten startups. In the northern part of the city, the lack of uninhabited buildings is less obvious, but take a ride down 45 and it will become more apparent. It is a very sobering sight for those who call Jackson home.
She made the best mincemeat pie,” Cousin Diane recalled, and everyone nodded. The minister for the funeral service had asked what made Janet Bennett unique, and this couldn’t be left off the list. Together with her love of Jeopardy, her skills at sewing clothes for the family, and her impeccable penmanship, the mincemeat pie stood out as an example of Grandma Bennett’s talent, service, and love. Grandma Bennett was a great cook.
Being young with creative aspirations takes hard work and initiative, sometimes particularly so in smaller towns. Yet Jackson is the lucky home to a plethora of up-and-coming talent with big plans for the future. Having lived and worked here for several years now, the members of Coopertheband are no strangers to the trials and rewards of the independent music world. They have recently played several shows back-to-back in the community, extending their central messages of hope and joy through their lyrics.
Ordinary guys don’t spend too much time thinking about the best escape route out of a restaurant or a home or out of town. And while most people I know aren’t worried about the trackability of their IP addresses or burner phones or whether or not they’ve been recorded on too many security cameras in public, that’s not the case for Lee Wilson. But then again, Lee isn’t exactly having an ordinary moment.
In 1998, one of the most respected scholars in the world made a profound decision. It was a decision that seemed at odds with much of what had previously happened in his life. Jaroslav Pelikan was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1923 to devout Lutheran parents. His father was a Lutheran pastor and his grandfather a bishop in the Lutheran Church. By the age of twenty-two he had completed both a seminary degree from Concordia Lutheran Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
An expansive flock of slate grey clouds span the sky as I drive along the narrow highway. The landscape rolls beside me, before me. The hills and subtle ridge lines guide the highway that bears my passage. Rural fields are dotted with gigantic cotton gins, dilapidated barns. Small colonies of trailers and rented houses populate gravel side roads, sprouting like branches from the main highway. I am northward bound, driving into an increasingly brisk wind.
2017 is not even a week old yet. The taste of black eyed peas and turnip greens may still linger in your mouth. The ink on that list of “resolutions” is barely dry. Thoughts of a future dance in your head as you sneak that last bit of Christmas candy from the aluminum foil-wrapped plate from your in-laws’ house. Maybe you’re not a candy person but a leftovers kind of guy. I mean, who wants to waste food, right?
"You want to do what?” was the phrase that passed through Shayne Crowe’s mind as his daughter Lauren, a high school student who was studying Spanish, told him she wanted to go to Italy for a year-long exchange. This announcement started a long process with the Rotary study abroad program. The family learned that the program encouraged them to take an exchange student into their home as part of their participation. “It’s actually a really good program,” said Shayne.
Yoga. The word creates images of handstands and people twisting their bodies into pretzels. I always thought that in order to be considered a true “yogi” I needed to be able to contort my body in painful, unnatural ways. Despite that, yoga was intriguing to me. I watched videos online and became more familiar with the terminology, slowly understanding what makes millions of people practice everyday. I even started to notice a shift in how I carried myself.
2016 has been full of a lot of Our Jackson Home firsts and the celebration of growth throughout our second year. Check out this stop motion by Katie Howerton highlighting some of our favorite moments. Featuring "Wolves" by Asha Moody of Small Town Big Sound.
You could say I’m a reluctant convert to Jackson, Tennessee. Prior to accepting a job at Union University, I had only ever been to Jackson once—an emergency bathroom break at the Starbucks on Vann Drive. Even when I agreed to the offer, it was with a begrudging sense of the inevitable. My wife Beth and I knew if we turned down the job it would be the wrong choice, but there was nothing in us that relished leaving the vibrance of a city we loved for the sluggishness of a lackluster town we didn’t know.
Ross Priddy is the man behind Douglass Gray. He is also my older brother. We grew up under the same roof with the same traditions, which formed many of the same memories. His childhood— I was there for that. Which, I assume, is why I was asked to tell the story of Douglass Gray—because that really is where it started . . . in his childhood. My brother was an imaginative kid. He took everything to the next level. If he was playing army, there was ketchup blood and little sisters on sleeping bag stretchers.
This fall's #OurJacksonTable tour has taken us from warm lunches parked outside food trucks to cozy meals in the warmth of some of Jackson's favorite spots. Check out Katie Howerton's play-by-play to add to your local dining bucket list to try for business lunches, weekend dates, and quick pick-up meals.
A twenty-minute drive away from the busy hub of I-40 and the noise of the road, the work day of a farrier begins unceremoniously. A trailer full of equipment is backed into a horse barn, equipment is unloaded, and work is immediately undertaken. Father-son duo Donnie and Chris Taylor begin their day beneath the hum of rain on the barn’s tin roof with intensity, focus, and a careful and determined pace that could only be settled into after years of practicing their craft.
The precious things are always removed first. They’re handled with care, preserved, and safeguarded so as not to disturb their history or perceived beauty. Careful hands wrap them in padded blankets or quilts and gently set them in an arrangement that will in no way cause a fracture. The pieces that are disposable or not as aesthetically pleasing are swept into a pile or thrown away or burned or sold. And so goes the process of preparing for the demolition of a building.
For years I’ve been hearing the name James Cherry. I first heard of him when I was a student at Union University (also his alma mater) and then continued to hear about this guy as a Jacksonian interested in writing. It’s clear that locals are proud to have this Jackson native around. He’s the president of the Griot Collective of West Tennessee, a monthly poetry workshop, and is, upon meeting him, very obviously cool. He has an easy going temperament and a steady, unquestionable passion for the written word.
A few years back, I chose to embark on one of my favorite childhood hobbies: collecting comic books. I researched and discovered the closest one to me to be Comics Universe. Filled with excitement and unsure of what to expect, I called the store to get a schedule, so I could make sure attend on a slow day. I wanted to take my time to skim over the entire store and converse with an employee just in case I wanted this special place to be my new safe haven.
After you crank your car down from the sixty-five miles-per-hour speed limit, you’ll make a turn onto a shaded, gravel road, and if you are lucky you’ll catch your first glimpse of the exotic: radiant peacocks, enormous camels, ancient buffalo, and vibrant zebras. In a way, you will feel that you have just stepped into a new world filled with wonder and excitement. And you’ve only just pulled in. Tennessee’s only drive-through safari park is truly a captivating place.
When I tell people that my family moved from Seattle—and that we didn’t move to Jackson because of family or a job—I often get the response, “Why would you move here?” Really it all started with woods. As Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, about his own time living in the woods, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
As I pulled up to Alamo Pride Cut & Sew Factory in March of 2014, I had to focus on the bold colors associated with spring that had taken hold across the Mid-South. The air was clean, and the morning dew blanketed fresh azalea and dogwood blossoms. I needed to focus on the beauty around me to keep from crying and mourning the life in Hong Kong I had left behind. “This is what the South is,” I said to myself as we drove past farmlands and well-manicured lawns heading into town.
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On Our Podcast
Ready for Mardi Gras?
Those of you who have met Sharon Younger know just what a whiz she is at working with our city's demographics to serve local businesses in the best way possible. Today on our podcast, Kevin Adelsberger hears the story behind this Younger Associates president's life in Jackson and exponential growth in her marketing business's success.
Happy Fat Tuesday! On Saturday, February 14, the Jackson Downtown Development Corporation hosted one of Jackson's most entertaining annual events: the 2015 Kids Mardi Gras Parade! It was blast for all ages and our filmmaker Trevor Masterson was on the scene.
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541 Wiley Parker Road | Jackson TN, 38305
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