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Stirring up memories



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Going far
July 19, 2006

It's about the same every year, and it won't be long until the time rolls around again. Back to school time. New clothes, lots of notebooks, pencils, erasers, maybe a new lunch box and even a sleepless night or two.

One more thing, some good words of advice from Mom and Dad on studying hard and getting ahead, and lots of head nodding promises from boys and girls.

This is the story of one mother and father who gave that good advice and their children who listened hard and made good on their word. Down around Recovery in the 1930s, John Bonbus Jackson and Melissa Jones Jackson told their six children that they could go far. Like parents everywhere they wanted the best, the very best for these kids. They did what they could and made those children understand the rest was up to them. The children listened.

Several years ago, in Stirring up memories, I told about Mary Jackson Guyton who listened to her dad's advice and followed her mother's edict to "walk like you're worth $10,000" wherever she went. Lots of folks in Decatur County know Mary. She was a fourth grade teacher in the Decatur County Schools for thirty years.

Now I want to tell about her brother John, how he not only lived up to his parents' expectations but how he passed that tradition of excellence on through his family.

All the Jackson children went to Recovery Elementary School and dreamed of going on, but because times got tough, John had to put his dreams on hold, leave school and go to work. Still he kept studying. By the time sister Mary headed into Bainbridge to attend Hutto High School, John was able to be at her side, back in school. He not only made up for lost time, but he pulled ahead of the crowd. Young John was valedictorian of the Class of 1938—and the recipient of a scholarship to Morehouse College. He was, indeed, determined to go far—and did.

From Morehouse John went to Meharry Medical College in Nashville and then on to more study in St. Louis. That's where he met and married young Eunice Motte. Later he applied his healing skills in Korea as an officer in the United States Army.

The Jacksons settled in the San Francisco area. John continued to practice medicine for the rest of his long life. (One of his patients was Willie Mays!) John died in 2003, but he left a legacy—the Jackson family tradition of excellence.

Each of his three children enjoys a successful professional career. Eldest son Kenneth received a Ph.D. in education and like his Aunt Mary is a teacher. Harold became an orthopedic surgeon, and daughter Brenda is a lawyer.

Let's continue with Brenda's story. While she was growing up in a doctor's family in California, there was a young man growing up on the opposite coast, the son and grandson of hardworking doctors. Young Michael Drake followed his family tradition and became a doctor. The family moved to California where he attended Stanford University for an undergraduate degree. He pursued his medical studies atthe University of California in San Francisco. He also met Brenda. Two of a kind.

They both pursued successful careers, Brenda as a public interest attorney and John as an ophthalmologist and University of California faculty member, while raising two sons, Christopher and Sean. The young men attended Stanford like their dad. Sean just graduated and Christopher studies law at Johns Hopkins.

A good family success story. Yes, and it gets better. Ask Brenda's Aunt Mary, here in Bainbridge. She recently climbed onto a plane and made the long flight to California. "I don't like flying, but I did it." Why? Another honor for the extended Jackson family. On April 6 and 7 of this year Dr. Michael Drake became the fifth chancellor of the 24,000 student University of California, Irvine. A singular honor and recognition of extraordinary abilities and accomplishments.

During the festivities Chancellor Drake spoke to a crowed auditorium telling his well-wishers, "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." Sounds like Jackson family advice. And speaking of that speech, the new chancellor recognized some special folks from the podium, including his "Aunt Mary from Bainbridge, Georgia who flew the farthest and made the most stops to get here."

The Jackson legacy is a big part of the Drake family. They frequently visited Bainbridge when the boys were small. In the summer of 2003, Brenda and Christopher stayed with Mary for a while so that Christopher could see where his grandfather grew up, and where his great-grandfather spoke those well-remembered wise words.

It's a place his grandfather John never forgot. For many years he made sure that other Decatur County youngsters had a chance to make their ways in the world by giving the John Berrye Jackson Scholarship to a graduating senior. It recognizes "good moral character, maximum participation in high school and community activities and high scholastic achievement." Since his death, his wife continues to honor a graduate in his name.

Of course, even the highest achieving families have their favorite treats. Mary shared this cookie delight with me. It comes from a California cookbook given to her by sister-in-law Eunice. Mary has added some variations of her own.

Simply successful cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream these together and add 1 egg. Continue creaming until fluffy.

Sift together:
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add to the creamed mixture and mix until smooth. Blend in the milk.

If desired, add 1 cup of chopped nuts. Macadamias are especially good. Drop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass which has been dipped in sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes.


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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network