Like so many of my generation, my family grew up struggling a bit. I was born at 844 East College Street, near the old A&P store, just down from the Aeneas Center. My dad was in the service and retired as Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. Back then, the people of Jackson took care of each other, cared for those who couldn’t care for themselves, and helped families stay together and self-reliant. There were government programs to help, but we relied more on ourselves and our neighbors. I believe we were better off for it.
Like most of us, our family worked hard. I always had a job, first at Bill’s Hollywood Texaco, then Rhinehart’s Gulf, and even at the State of Tennessee Toxicology Office. I was lucky enough to work my way through Lambuth University and earn a degree in biology and chemistry. (I am so proud that we have kept that beautiful campus a vibrant part of the midtown area.) Hard work has always been a hallmark of Jacksonians. It took hard work to bring the University of Memphis to Jackson, and it will take hard work to meet the next challenge that will move our community ahead.
I love Jackson for the hundreds of small businesses that make Jackson Jackson, and we need even more so we can meet the needs of our growing community. We are the retail center of the Golden Circle, and we need aggressive growth and development to grow our economy and create jobs. While I have personally worked a lot of jobs, we were blessed to be a part of the Hall Insurance Agency and grow it into Allison-Eldridge Insurance. We have provided insurance to hundreds of Jackson families and provided jobs for many others.
I love Jackson for its history. We were a railroad town after the Civil War, and into the 1960’s, fifteen passenger trains served Jackson. You can still see the once-busy tracks all over town. Jackson has left its mark on our state and nation. From the Blues and Carl Perkins to Civil War encampments and Casey Jones, Jackson has a lot to see and do.
I love downtown, and I am excited to watch its revival. Going there is a walk down memory lane; everyone should do it. I remember blocks and blocks of locally owned stores in fabulous old buildings. You could buy almost anything you needed downtown, from clothing to hardware to furniture. Downtown is a vital part of the fabric of our community, and we need to do everything we can to preserve it, promote it, and make it the best it can be.
I love Jackson because of its educational opportunities. We will always work hard to fund and make our public schools the best they can be, and we are fortunate to have the private choices we have for our families, as well as special services like the West Tennessee School for the Deaf. And no city beats Jackson for higher education: Jackson State, TCAT, Lane, Union, and U of M Lambuth. Towns twice our size don’t have our educational offerings. Our colleges educate our children, but they also enrich the culture of our community.
I love Jackson because of our world-class medical center. Jackson-Madison County General Hospital is our city’s biggest asset, and not just in financial terms. We are truly blessed to have such a facility in our hometown. And it has helped attract excellence in virtually every field of medicine. If you have the misfortune to be sick or injured, Jackson, Tennessee will give you the very best in medical care. All of West Tennessee and beyond depends on us to provide the best medical care available.
I love Jackson because it is a community of faith. Our neighborhoods are dotted with churches of all sizes and traditions, and we are blessed by that. Jackson’s streets are not empty on Sunday morning, and here, people are both humble and proud of their faith. I am grateful to say that God watches over Jackson, Tennessee.
Most of all, I love Jackson for its families. That’s the main reason I want to be part of the team that leads our city. Our families deserve a city upon which the sun rises with opportunity and sets on safe and peaceful neighborhoods.
My family has been part of the fabric of Jackson for well over a hundred years. My grandmother lived in Bemis for many years, and my mother was born there. Carolyn and I have been married for forty-six years. We have two children, Stephen and Michael, and four grandchildren: Madeline, Emily, Garrett, and Ella Hall. We are all proud to call Jackson home. I want all our children and grandchildren to be able to stay here and thrive. I want Jackson to be the best place in Tennessee to live, work, raise a family, and retire. There’s no place on earth I’d rather live, and I will work my heart out to make our hometown even better.
To learn more about Jimmy Eldridge, visit his Facebook page.