Kingsport: Remembering Mr. Jackson

Last week I was reading through a collection or two, trying to become familiar with more of the archives’ holdings, when I began reading Kingsport Utilities old newsletters. One entry in the Spring 1950 edition honored 5 men who had been working for the company the longest.

I was quite taken by the fact that a man could serve as a janitor for 32 years and not be given an opportunity to prove himself or improve himself in another position. I realize that this was 1950 and that means he was given the job in 1918. It was a different time and place, but I found myself thinking about Mose Jackson until bedtime and again first thing in the morning. I decided to use the Newspaper Archives and the collection of City Directories we have to see if I could learn a little more about this man’s life.

Mose Jackson, who was listed in one year’s directory as Moses and in another as Mosely, was born in Scott County, Virginia to George W. Jackson and Ellen Woods Jackson. He had six sisters and one brother. He was married to Cora Charles Jackson and the couple had a large family that included step children and foster children. One daughter, Kathleen, who worked as a ticket taker for Kingsport’s Strand Theater, heartbreakingly died at the age of 21 due to a lengthy illness. In 1948, the notice of her death was not listed under “Obituaries,” but under “Negro News.” You can learn a lot about a town’s cultural history by reading its newspaper.

According to the earliest directory in the Archives, Mr. Jackson resided on East Sullivan St. and worked as a “porter” for Kingsport Utilities. By 1939, the Jacksons had moved to Walnut and Mr. Jackson was listed as a “janitor.” I continued to find the couple residing on Walnut until 1957, when their address was listed as East Sevier Av.

On June 7, 1954, Mr. Jackson’s mother passed away at age 81. She was a resident of Gate City.

To me, the most illuminating thing about Mr. Jackson was not that he was a father to his children, step children, and foster children, or that he was a grandpa of 3. It was not that he served in a humble position faithfully supporting his family for so many years. It was that he was a Boy Scout Leader and loved scouting. He was involved in scouting right up until the time of his death. His name was frequently mentioned in the paper as an attendee at leadership training meetings and at scouting events. He served as the Scoutmaster of Cub Scout Troop 90, which was sponsored by the Douglas PTA.

Mose Jackson passed away in November of 1959. I love that not one, not two, but four reverends officiated at his funeral service. At the time of his death, he was 63 years old and had been employed by Kingsport Utilities for 41 years.

The archives preserves the life stories of many, many loyal employees who worked for Kingsport businesses in the mid-20th century. The staff photographs of these businesses are among my favorites in the archives. Some of the stories make you just a little more grateful for the details of your own story.

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