Natchez firefighter killed in wreck

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Lieutenant James Credit, of the Natchez fire department, raises the American flag at half-mast Tuesday afternoon in remembrance of senior firefighter Henry M. Jackson, who died Tuesday morning.

NATCHEZ — Henry M. Jackson’s coworkers remembered the laughs as they gathered for a prayer service Tuesday in the Natchez Fire Department lounge, the place where their friendship with Jackson grew.

Jackson, 37, a NFD firefighter for 16 years, member of the National Guard for 18 years and father of three, died Tuesday morning from a single-car accident in Franklin County.

His fellow firefighters said they will remember him for his ear-to-ear smile and stubbornly good moods.

“I’ve been here for 30 years, and I’ve never seen him mad,” Battalion Chief C.R. Gibson said.

“I’m going to miss the hell out of him, I don’t know about y’all,” Gibson told nearly 30 firefighters gathered during the service.

Adams County Fire Marshal Aaron Wesley, the NFD chaplain, prayed for Jackson’s three children.

“We definitely need to try to stick by Henry’s kids,” Wesley told the men.

“He was a great dad, and nobody can take that from him.”

A Mississippi Highway Patrol press release said Jackson’s 2004 Nissan pickup truck was heading east on U.S. 84 just west of Meadville when the accident occurred at 9:24 a.m., less than three hours after he got off his shift.

The truck appeared to have veered onto the median before crossing both lanes of traffic, running off the right side of the highway and striking a tree.

Jackson died at the scene, Franklin County Coroner Percy Peeler said.

Jackson’s sister, Corvet Jackson, said her brother will be missed by his children, the oldest who is in high school.

“He loves his babies; he loves his kids,” she said.

She said her brother will be remembered for his smile and his sense of humor, qualities his friends at NFD also noted.

“I used to call his smile the Pepsodent smile,” NFD dispatcher Diane Smith said.

Smith said Jackson was always laughing, sometimes even at himself, and he shared his pleasant personality.

“(NFD) is all men, they have egos, rank and all of this going on, and you have Henry, (who) is just a great guy,” she said.

“You just don’t come across great people often.”

Darryl Smith, a fellow firefighter, said like everyone else who knew Jackson that he was always smiling.

“He was a good guy,” he said.

“It’s tough, (to lose) the people you have been around, worked and trained with. It hurts.”

Jackson’s father, Henry Harris said Jackson’s coworkers and his job helped make him who he was.

“They were with him 24/7 every other day. I raised him, but as an adult, he was kind of (molded) at the fire department. They all grew really close,” Harris said.

“He was a good guy. He was a caring kid, a laid-back kid. He grew up to be a caring adult.”

A memorial march for Jackson has been planned for 9:30 a.m. Friday. The march will leave from the downtown central station on Martin Luther King Jr. and Main streets, down Main Street to the Natchez bluff.