Just shy of his 100th birthday, Herbert Jackson still has a need for speed
Published 9:15 pm Saturday, July 22, 2017
A smile grew across his face as he listened to a favorite poem being read.
Herbert R. Jackson even let out a soft chuckle when certain lines were recited from Robert Strand’s limerick that is found in a little book entitled, “Moments for Grandparents.”
Strand’s poem, most certainly is reflective of some aspects of Jackson’s life when it states, “How do I know my youth’s all spent? My get up and go has got up and went!”
Jackson will turn 100 years old on July 29 and although he may not have the energy level of someone younger, he has not given up the ghost, yet.
Jackson is an active member of the New Rock of Ages Church in Vicksburg, where he serves as a deacon. He enjoys hanging out with family and friends, and after retiring from the Ford Motor Co. in California with 30 years of service, the soon-to-be centenarian is still enamored with the Ford Mustang.
This past week, as a birthday surprise, Jackson’s granddaughter, Artelia Green Williams, arranged for her grandfather to sit in one of the latest models of the company’s sport vehicles.
“If I was 75, I would get me one of them,” Jackson said, after having the opportunity to grip to the leather steering wheel and fire up the 435-horse power engine.
Jackson was born in Issaquena County, near Eagle Lake.
“I grew up in a farming community. My father and grandfather were farmers. We had mostly cotton and grew vegetables at home,” Jackson said.
He recalled a flood that occurred either in 1936 or 1937, and said it flooded their crops, and to get to their house they had to use a boat.
“We had a boat, and we would come home in the evening and tie it to the front porch,” he said.
In 1940, Jackson joined the Army and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he served his country in England, France and Germany.
He was honorably discharged at Fort Logan, Colo., as a technician 5th grade 2209th Quarter Master Truck Company on Oct. 21, 1945.
After his honorable discharge, Jackson stayed in Colorado, but his best friend convinced him to pick up and move to the Golden State.
“My friend was a native Mississippian, but he had married a girl in California and that’s how I went to California with my best friend.”
Jackson went to work for the government on Mare Island, he said, and when he got a break to come home to Mississippi, he met and married Annie Williams.
Jackson returned to California with his bride, and in 1974, began working for the Ford Motor Co. in Palo Alto, Calif.
“I was classified as a relief man, but we installed windows and the instrument panels,” he said.
Jackson recalled that his initial wages were $1.17 an hour from the company and by the time he retired 30 years later, he was earning more than $7.40 an hour.
Highlights from his time working at the plant included the roll out of the Ford Mustang, he said.
“The excitement was when the Mustang was introduced. It was a new type of vehicle and everybody seemed to be excited about it,” he said.
Jackson said his favorite model was the 1960 edition.
“It had dual exhaust,” he recalled.
After the death of his first wife, to whom he was married for 52 years, Jackson married Ruby Jones Jackson and the couple was married for 13 years before her death in 2016.
Williams said her grandfather is a very kind, mild mannered person and treated both of his wives very well, showering them with unconditional love and care.
“Even in his late 90s, he drove himself to the Merit Hospital twice daily to be there for his wife Ruby as she slept with a ventilator,” Williams said.
In the course of a nearly 100-year life, Jackson has lived through many changes, he said.
He cited the cell phone and TV as being two of the biggest technological advances.
And while living in California, he had a front row seat to many of the newest trends.
Jackson lived in Menlo Park, which is one of the counties that make up Silicon Valley.
“Palo Alto’s Stanford University was where all of this first started. Technology began to bust out, like Hewlett Packard, ” Jackson said.
In addition to a plethora of technological advances, Jackson has also witnessed many social changes — one of which included the U.S. electing its first African American president.
Although the civil rights protests were not as prevalent in California like in the South, Jackson did say that his church took up offerings that were used for the cause.
Not citing any particular reasons as to his longevity, Jackson has tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
He said he began smoking during the ’60s, but when all the negative information came out about its ill effects, he quit cold turkey.
He also learned to drink when he was a teenager, but that too came to a halt after marrying his first wife.
“When I got married my wife disapproved of drinking and staying out late. I never come home after midnight, because she told me whatever you looking for out there, I got it here at home.”
Jackson’s granddaughter said her grandfather has also maintained regular doctor and dentist visits, which is evident from his beautiful teeth.
Williams describes her grandfather as having a kind and gentle spirit, which some would claim as a reason for his long and healthy life.
Living a Christian life has also been a fundamental element of Jackson’s life, he said.
“My faith has meant everything. I learned to love people more and be conscious of the less fortunate,” Jackson said.