Hailing from the small town of Pinson, the city of Jackson was considered our metropolis. The vibrant downtown community was a far cry from the simple and wholesome country life of farm work, church, school, and more farm work. The coveted opportunity to go to “town” was a big deal.
The long journey of a mere eleven miles up Highway 45 from Pinson was overshadowed by the thoughts of bright lights, department stores, food choices, and other amenities that were unavailable in Pinson. After passing through Bemis and crossing the Forked Deer, we were greeted with the pleasant aroma of baked bread wafting from the Colonial Bakery where my father worked.
By the age of fifteen, my rites of passage of being “big enough” to walk from the bakery to downtown were granted. Now, with a small amount of money and a large amount of energy, my excursion began.
My time was consumed with a variety of stops along the way, including the library, Woolworth’s, and McCrory’s department store. It was an additional treat to stop by Hub City Drugstore, the only African-American drugstore to enjoy a hand-dipped ice cream cone.
After high school graduation, I enrolled in Lambuth College in the fall of 1973 and began a new chapter in my Jackson story. Lambuth’s strong academic acumen coupled with the physical appeal of the campus quickly grew on me. My days were filled with rigorous studies and extracurricular activities; among them were the Black Student Union, the Student Government Association, the Coffee House Papers, the Parent Weekend Committee, and serving as a class officer.
I graduated in the spring of 1976 as the first member of my immediate family to earn a college degree, and the Lambuth legacy remains an integral part of my life. Cynthia and I were married in the resplendent Womack Chapel. I served on the alumni board and board of trustees, and I also received the R.E. Womack Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
Cynthia and I became official Jackson residents in 1988 when we purchased our present home in historic South Jackson. During that time, my employment was with the old Jackson city schools district, where I served as a special education teacher at Parkway Junior High School. Those teaching experiences were encouraging as I witnessed students triumph under nearly impossible odds. The words of the Special Olympics creed continue to inspire me in all areas of my life: “Let me win, and if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
I have witnessed numerous changes in our fair city, ranging from two major tornadoes to the vibrant revitalization of our downtown. Today I turn another page—perhaps a historic page—as I endeavor to become mayor of Jackson. I find it almost unbelievable that I am placed at this exciting and critical juncture, but I am encouraged to finish this race regardless of outcome as I live out the dream of a little country boy from Pinson.
To learn more about Dr. Jerry Woods, visit his website.