Speakers honor bomb victim Jackson

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The 90-or-so people gathered at a Wharlest Jackson Sr. memorial service Monday night had fond memories, proud comments and sad stories, but they didn&8217;t have what may be needed most &8212; justice.

It&8217;s been 39 years since a bomb planted under Jackson&8217;s truck exploded, killing him. And it&8217;s been 39 years with no arrests.

Family, friends and community members gathered at Christian Hope Baptist Church for the first service of its kind.

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&8220;That day some 39 years ago tonight was forever etched into the minds of some,&8221; Mayor Phillip West said. &8220;It inspired calls for justice, but justice never arrived.

&8220;I know we are working, but with each passing day I feel somewhat hopeless to see some justice brought to Wharlest Jackson.&8221;

Jackson, treasurer of the local NAACP, had recently been promoted to a &8220;whites-only&8221; job at Armstrong Tire & Rubber Co. He worked a full shift on Feb. 27, 1967 before getting in truck to drive home. He only made it a few blocks.

&8220;One man gets the opportunity to better himself, and one evening he got bombed,&8221; the Rev. John Scott Sr. said. &8220;Because of Wharlest Jackson Sr., Mississippi is a better place to live.&8221;

And his death wasn&8217;t in vain, speaker after speaker told the family.

&8220;It was and is now what signaled the Natchez African-American community was not going to be turned around,&8221; Ser Seshab Heter-Boxley said.

West said Natchez has come a long way since Jackson&8217;s death b ut has a long way to go.

&8220;We are charged with the responsibility to make the city of Natchez better today that it was yesterday,&8221; West said. &8220;Wharlest Jackson&8217;s death symbolized a movement toward this day.&8221;

West and others acknowledged embarrassment that there hasn&8217;t been a memorial service for Jackson in past years. West also said he wanted the city to do something to commemorate Jackson&8217;s life and death.

Two of Jackson&8217;s children, Wharlest Jr. and Denise Ford, were at Monday&8217;s service with their families and heard several speakers praise Jackson&8217;s role as a family man.

Henry Murphy was a child when Jackson married into his family.

&8220;I remember Wharlest Jackson as the guy who always twisted my arm and made me cry,&8221; Murphy said. &8220;He was like a big brother. This was a family man. In his household he was the glue that held it together.&8221;

John Scott Jr. was a child when Jackson died and was friends with the Jackson children.

&8220;The sadness I felt at the death of Wharlest Jackson was not because a civil rights leader had been killed but because my friend had lost a father.&8221;

Ford, who helped organize the service, thanked everyone for attending.

&8220;We know that in the depths of our hearts God has taken care of our situation,&8221; she said.

In July, U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton reopened Jackson&8217;s murder case along with the civil rights killings of Charles Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee of Franklin County.

Anyone with any information about any of the murders can call the FBI at 601-948-5000 or the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol at 601-987-1560. Lampton&8217;s office can be contacted at, 601-965-4480.