A.L. ‘Buck’ Tanner remembered for his devotion to family, customers

Published 12:07 pm Friday, September 10, 2021

Mary Louise Stevens remembers the day she met A.L. Tanner.

At the time, Tanner was manager of Zales Jewelry in the Battlefield Mall and Stevens had recently moved to Vicksburg and had a broken watchband.

“He worked on it for a little bit and then said, ‘Try this, I think I fixed it. Try it and see.’”

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 When she asked how much she owed him, Stevens said Tanner told her, “You owe me nothing. If you’re satisfied, tell people about it; if you’re not, come back and tell me and let me make it right.”

For many Vicksburg residents, Stevens’ experience with Tanner was typical of a man who had the love and respect of his customers — not only in Vicksburg but across the country. Tanner died at his home on Monday. He was 94.

“He was a wonderful person,” said Judy McCool, one of his customers. “He treated everybody like they were family. We’ve lived in Vicksburg since 1985, and I was a customer until they closed.”

A native of Petal, Tanner joined the U.S. Navy at 17 and served in Japan until the end of World War II. After the war, he moved to Belzoni, where he met his wife, Daisy Purvis Tanner. They were married for 67 years until her death on Nov. 28, 2017.

He worked for more than 50 years in the jewelry business, first as manager of Zales in the Battlefield Mall and later in the family-owned jewelry business, A.L. Tanner Jewelers, in the then-Vicksburg Mall.

“Mom and dad were married for 67 years and they devoted their entire life to their family and opened a jewelry store, A.L. Tanner Jewelers, in 1981,” said daughter Marcie Southerland. “They built a relationship in this community with their customers, their customers’ families and children and grandchildren, and just loved everyone. I think they were an inspiration to so many young people starting out, getting credit for the first time in their lives.”

Since her father’s death, Southerland said, she has received emails, Facebook posts and telephone calls from people in New York and Florida telling her how much they loved them and how much her parents meant to them for allowing them to have credit for the first time, “and just the love of my parents to their family and the community is just unforgettable and just inspirational to me and my brother and all of us.”

“They loved each other; they were the love of each other’s lives for 67 years,” she said. “We were the love of them for all of our lives and so were the people in this community. That’s how I got where I am today, because of my parents and what they inspired in us both. I think it inspired many people within the community.”

A.L. Tanner Jewelers, Southerland said, was more than a jewelry store.

“To them, it was their life, and to them, they gave back to everybody who was their customer. They weren’t just their customers; they became their family,” she said.

Southerland’s brother, Doug Tanner, began working with his parents at Zales when he was 11 years old.

“I worked with him and my mom from 1971 until we closed the store in 2017,” he said.

His father, he said, was an excellent watch repairman and big on customer service.

“He loved all his customers dearly, he loved his work,” he said. “My dad sold jewelry to customers from all over the U.S. He sold rings to couples and their children and grandchildren bought rings from us.

“Dad was very respected by everyone.”

“I’ve known Mr. Tanner all my life,” said longtime customer Danny Koestler. “I think I bought every piece of jewelry I ever bought from Mr. Tanner.

“He was a really great guy; a good guy. There’s not a better guy in the world; he was good for the community,” he said. “He had honor and integrity; I don’t think he ever met a stranger. He loved what he did and he was very, very helpful. They don’t make them like that anymore.”

Judy McCool, another customer of Tanner’s, said he “treated everybody like they were family. I was a customer for many years. We’ve been in Vicksburg since 1985 and I was a customer until they closed.”

Judy Paxton, who worked with Tanner at Zales, said Tanner was her rock.

“I knew he loved me very much and loved him very much,” she said. “I always felt he looked after me and I looked after him. He was new to the business and I had taught him some things and he taught me things by me just being around him.

“He loved his dogs and he told me a story not too long ago that he always boiled meat for his dogs,” she said. “He was so into his animals. He had a raccoon that he fed and up until the day he died, Marcie fed that raccoon every night; he’d come up to the window every night.”

Paxton said she has known the Tanner family since they moved to Vicksburg, calling Tanner and his wife, “my pride and joy. He loved his family and took care of his children and grandchildren.”

Stevens, who has been a resident of Vicksburg since 1982, said, “Mr. Tanner and I were very special friends.

“I always used Tanner’s whenever I needed something repaired. If I was going to buy something new, I would go look there,” she said.

When Tanner stopped going to the store regularly, she said, she worked with Doug.

“I always felt like I could trust them,” she said. “I told Mr. Tanner I was not his best customer, but a good customer. He was a nice man. We trusted them for our jewelry business.

“The Tanners gave an awful lot to this community,” she said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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