Jackson family seeks marker

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 6, 2010

NATCHEZ — Denise Ford and Wharlest Jackson Jr. say they will never forget their father’s ultimate sacrifice, and the Miss-Lou community shouldn’t either.

Wharlest Jackson Sr., 36, died on Feb. 27, 1967, when a planted bomb exploded in his Chevy pickup. Jackson, a black man, had recently been promoted at the Armstrong Tire Factory to a job that had been traditionally done by whites.

Jackson’s killers were never found.

Forty-three years later, Jackson is hailed as a civil rights hero who pushed for economic equality through faith and hard work. Ford and Wharlest Jr. want to honor their father’s legacy by placing a marker at the site of bombing on Minor Street, and are soliciting donations from the community.

“There are a lot of people who loved my father and what he stood for, and I believe they’d like to take a part in that and we want to allow them the opportunity to take part in that,” said Wharlest Jr., who was 8 years old at the time of his father’s death.

Ford said the marker will cost approximately $800. She and Wharlest Jr. have each contributed $100, meaning $600 needs to be raised.

All donations are tax deductible, and should be mailed to the Historic Natchez Foundation, 108 S. Commerce St., Natchez, MS 39120.

“This was something I felt I wanted to do to help me with closure,” said Ford, who was 12 years old when her father died. “He sacrificed his life for a 10-cent promotion to care for his family, and it killed him.

“His legacy is to let us know as black folks we can stand with our fellow man and fulfill our obligations. Never say, ‘No I can’t, but yes, I can.’”

In addition to preserving their father’s legacy, Ford and Wharlest Jr. continue to follow investigations and research surrounding their father’s death. The U.S. Attorney’s office reopened the Jackson case in 2005, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded in 2006 that anyone connected to the murder is probably dead.

Ford said the Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University Law School has been instrumental in keeping her father’s case alive, but she doesn’t believe everyone who had a hand in her father’s death is deceased.

“You’ve got the FBI, former Natchez policemen who’ve let this case go unsolved for 43 years,” Ford said. “The person who did it had accomplices. Where are they?”

Wharlest Jr. believes members of a white supremacist group that existed in Concordia Parish are responsible for his father’s death. Like his sister, Wharlest Jr. believes some suspects are still alive.

“The Klansmen had a meeting in Vidalia and the youngest person there was about 22 years old, which would make that person 65 now,” Wharlest Jr. said.

“In our hearts we are content because God is a just God, and He will execute justice. You cannot murder or harm anybody and not have it come back on you at some particular point in time.

“These people may get by us, but they won’t get by capital G-O-D, God. That’s an insurance I have in my heart today.”