My childhood was probably different from most. Some of my earliest memories are from campaign events and press conferences, crawling around on the floor of the old city hall. Six generations ago, my family settled in Jackson, Tennessee. Since then, the Conger family has been a part of moving Jackson forward. My great-great-great-grandfather, PDW Conger, was mayor in 1861 to 1871. He was also part of the citizens’ committee that searched for the suspects in the Union Bank robbery and murder in 1859. My great-grandfather, Bob Conger, Sr., was a businessman who helped charter the Jackson Rotary Club in 1916. His wife, my great-grandmother, was a member of the Rothrock family. And my grandfather, Bob Conger, was mayor of Jackson from 1967 to 1989.
As far back as I can remember, I was taught the rich history of our city. I can remember, as a young boy, my grandfather picking me up on Saturday mornings and taking me to the public library, alternating between the police and fire stations, Woolworth’s, and the artesian wells on Royal Street. What I didn’t realize then was that he was sharing with me the things that were important to him and this city. He was sharing his love for reading by taking me to the library. He was sharing his respect for first responders by taking me to the police and fire stations. He was sharing his desire to see businesses thrive in downtown Jackson by taking me to Woolworth’s. Most importantly, he was sharing his love for his family by taking me to the place he and my grandmother “courted” before they were married.
My mother’s side of the family was no different. My grandfather, Oliver Jones, was an attorney whose office was in the Pythian Building downtown. What I consider as one of the staples of downtown Jackson was my Uncle Nando’s store. Nando Jones was the place where you could find anything and everything, from band shoes to Carhartt jackets. He believed in providing quality items at affordable prices and did so for many years.
Like many who grew up here, I was a part of school consolation. At that time, my mother was a county school teacher, and my grandmother was a city school teacher. During my time in the public schools, I attended five different schools and graduated from South Side High School. I have lived in every section of this city: midtown, West Jackson, South Jackson, East Jackson, and North Jackson. I have seen what makes each area great and how great we can be if we come together as one city.
We take things for granted when we’re kids. We don’t fully understand the lessons we’re being taught in those moments we share with our family members and friends. As I look back at my childhood, I see those lessons in everything my grandfathers were doing. They were teaching me to appreciate all of the things that make a city great. They were sharing with me what they considered to be important and unique about our city. They were teaching me to understand, appreciate, and learn from the past while keeping an eye on the future and creating a vision of where we can go.
With all of the big-picture lessons my grandfathers taught me, the most important I learned was how to treat people. Both were successful businessmen. As I watched them interact with people, I could never tell which ones the “important” people were. They treated everyone the same because everyone has something to offer. That’s how we have to look at our city today; we have to embrace our past and how far we’ve come as a city, but we also have to constantly look to the future and work to make Jackson the best Jackson it can be. We all play a part in that.
Jackson is a special place and we have so much opportunity. If you take a look at our history, you see what potential we have. Now we have the opportunity to continue to fulfill that potential. We have to keep building on the things that make us great. We have to address the areas of opportunity. We have to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table in crafting the vision for our future. We have to listen to the best ideas, not just the agenda-driven ones. We have to look out for one another. We can’t accept things the way they are just because that’s the way they’ve always been, but we have to be respectful in how we challenge for change.
If we do those things, we can build a Jackson that my grandfathers could only dream about.
To learn more about Scott Conger, visit his website.