By Matt Harrelson
Richmond County lost a hard-working, dedicated family man and sheriff’s deputy with the passing of Lt. James Forrest Jackson Jr.
Jackson, 72, of Rockingham, died on Wednesday after battling cancer for more than three years. Jackson worked with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office for more than 32 years and served under three different sheriffs, many of those as a court bailiff.
A service to celebrate Jackson’s life is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Sunday at Jefferson Park Free Will Baptist Church.
“I came to the sheriff’s office in 1989,” said Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. “Sgt. James F. Jackson took this young kid to the Hub in Charlotte and got me my very first uniform. He was a friend and a mentor.”
“Not only did he work for Sheriff (Raymond) Goodman and Sheriff (Dale) Furr,” Clemmons added, “but he also worked with me as one of my bailiffs. He is an outstanding representative of professional dedication and loyalty, and he will truly be missed.”
Jackson was known as a men of men by Clemmons and Leon Clark, a retired sheriff’s deputy who worked with Jackson on the force for well over two decades.
“We worked together at least 25 years,” Clark said. “I was there with him the whole time he was with the sheriff’s department. I was there when he came, and I was there when he left. J.J. could put a hurting on you.”
Clark told a story of a guy being in the courtroom and Jackson was escorting him back to the jail. The man tried to get away an Jackson started chasing him. The man lost his footing coming down the steps outside and Jackson wrestled with him out in the road. Raymond Goodman, who was sheriff at the time, and Furr, who was then a deputy, were sitting in a car outside and saw the events unfold. Goodman told Furr to get out there so Jackson wouldn’t kill him in the street.
“I had a Masonic ring that I always wore on my right hand,” said Clemmons. “He shook my hand one time and bent my ring, and that day forward, I wore it on my left hand. He had a heck of grip.”
It was this kind of manly strength that Jackson was known for.
Physical strength wasn’t all Jackson was known for, however. He was also seen as reliable and personable.
“We just had so many tales and trips,” Clark said. “He was somebody you could depend on. He was a man of men.”
Clark went on to say, “J.J. lived what he believed. We had some good times. We went to school together and knew each other before we were on the force.”
Jackson worked as the sheriff’s office’s crime scene photographer first and was also known as an artist, Clark said.
After Furr was elected sheriff, he wanted a new patch design and shield to go on shirts and the cars, said Clark.
“(Jackson) drew it out on a piece of paper and showed it to Furr,” Clark mentioned. This is the design still used today.
Jackson was also known as a writer and was currently working on a book to be entitled “Court Room Stories.” He was writing about things that went on in a courtroom, said Clark — including funny things that judges did.
J.J. was a talented person, serving as bass player for Eastern Seaboard Band in the early 1970s.
“He played in church every Sunday,” said Clark. “He was always trying to do something for church. There’s no telling how many guitars he had, though. J.J. could play as good as anybody in any rock and roll band ever. You ask anybody about J.J. playing music, they’d tell you.”
In 1986 he married the love of his life, Sherrell Reynolds Jackson and wrote a song about her entitled “Old Fashioned Baby.”
Said Clark, “J.J. didn’t date until his mother died. His mother was his life. There was nobody else but him. He had no other family, but he stayed with her up until the very end. The reason he and Sherrell were so compatible was because neither had any other family. All they had was each other.”
Those that knew Jackson spoke very highly of him, and he is someone who will truly be missed.
“He was a gentle giant and the easiest going person you ever met,” Clark said. “He never talked bad about anybody and nobody ever talked bad about him.”
To sum it up, Clemmons added, “He was a fantastic human being.”