• 73°

Wharlest Jackson house listed on National Register of Historic Places

by DAVID HAMILTON

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — The house of slain civil rights activist Wharlest Jackson Sr. has been entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Wharlest and Exerlena Jackson house on Matthews Street, listed on the register June 6, is currently owned by two of Jackson’s children, Wharlest Jackson Jr. and Denise Ford.

“You have no idea how great this is for our family,” Jackson Jr. said.

An employee at the former Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company in Natchez, Jackson Sr. accepted a promotion in February 1967 to a position previously only held by white men.

Shortly after his promotion, Jackson Sr. was killed on Feb. 27 of that year when a bomb planted beneath his truck detonated during his drive home from work.

Now 50 years after his death, the case remains unsolved.

But for Jackson Sr.’s children, having the house on the National Register helps to validate the sacrifice of their father and other activists.

“When you see Martin Luther King Jr.’s name, you also see Wharlest Jackson Sr.’s name,” Jackson Jr. said. “Someone had to pay the ultimate price that brought forth the freedoms that we now endure in June of 2017.”

“It’s great to know his struggles were not in vain,” Ford said.

Ford said her father instilled both determination and a solid work ethic in her and those he knew.

“I never say ‘no,’ that I can’t doing anything because my father always put forth the effort,” Ford said.

After receiving approval from the state review board in March, the application to place the house on the register went on to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., which granted the final approval to list the house on the National Register.

While many places on the register are eligible for federal funding and tax credits, Mississippi Department of Archives and History Chief Architectural Historian Jennifer Baughn said private residences such as the Jackson house rarely receive these types of grants.

“In this case, it’s primarily an honorary designation since it’s a private establishment,” Baughn said.

Jackson Jr., however, said the house would no longer be a private residence in the near future.

“We want to open it up for tourism and get our story out,” Jackson Jr. said.

If that happens, the house would then be eligible for tax credits and federal grants.

Baughn said while Jackson Sr.’s story is well known, having the house on the register adds a unique element to his narrative.

“It documents the story of Wharlest Jackson (Sr.) and the Civil Rights Movement in a way that hasn’t been done,” Baughn said. “Things have been written about him in books, but nobody has really looked at his house or where he lived.”

Jackson Jr. and Ford said they are honored and thankful that their father has been recognized and that his legacy will be preserved.