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Jackson left mark on city, university

July 7, 2004 · By Tony Stinnett, MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO - Joe B. Jackson is one of Murfreesboro's most recognized names, having served the city in public service for three decades, including 16 years as Mayor before retiring from the office in 1998.

The landscape of Murfreesboro may have been much different if not for former assistant football coach E.K. Patty, who drummed up a conversation with Jackson on a train ride to Chattanooga after Jackson had spent two years serving with the Third Marine Division during World War II.

"When the war was over I was on a train coming back to Chattanooga and several of us were introducing ourselves to one another and talking about our plans," Jackson recalls. "A man heard me say something about being from Chattanooga, and he came up and introduced himself. He was (Patty), and he asked me my plans. I told him I wanted to pursue an education. I wanted a quiet and peaceful place to go to school after having served in (World War II). (Patty) told me he had been promised a job coaching at Middle Tennessee and asked if I would be interested."

That conversation set in motion a career of excellence, not only in athletics, but in city government, as Jackson would take his athletic ability and astute leadership to Middle Tennessee and begin a legacy that had a dramatic impact on the growth of both Murfreesboro and the university.

The personable and driven Jackson will be recognized for his achievements when he is enshrined into the Middle Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame during an induction ceremony, July 24. Jackson will enter the Hall of Fame along with Bill Martin and Stephen B. Smith, the first class to be enshrined in the new state of the art Emmett and Rose Kennon Hall of Fame Building adjacent to Murphy Center. A reception is scheduled for 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are sold out.

"It has meant a lot to me to watch that university grow," Jackson said. "I certainly do appreciate the honor. I appreciate the honor of being nominated and to be chosen is the ultimate. The university and the city and county mean so much to me, it's hard to put into words. Never did I dream it would turn out this way because I was a stranger to Murfreesboro. I wasn't from here."

It didn't take long for Murfreesboro to become Jackson's adopted home.

He attended what was then Middle Tennessee State Teachers College on athletic scholarship and played football, basketball and baseball. He is one of the few to letter in all three major sports, and he did so while serving as president of the Associated Student Body.

"Joe B. was always a leader, and he was always one that wasn't a trouble-maker," said Brad Miller, a teammate of Jackson's on the football team. "He was an exceptional athlete and was able to play all three sports well. He didn't mind responsibility but, more than anything, he came to (Middle Tennessee) on a mission. He wanted an education, and he wanted to get out and work."

It was education, not athletics, that drove Jackson, but the hard-worker realized he was going to have to rely on his athletic ability to achieve the education he wanted after returning home from World War II.

"I needed a scholarship because my parents had fallen on hard times through the depression and the war," Jackson said. "I had played all three major sports at (Chattanooga Central High School), but the war came along and interrupted all of that. Sports was entertainment for me, something to fill a void, but I knew I was going to need sports to help me gain my education."

So Jackson made his way to Murfreesboro on Patty's recommendation. He became a starter for the football and basketball teams for three years, and the baseball team for two years. He played on the legendary coach Charles (Bubber) Murphy's first Middle Tennessee football team and was part of 20 wins out of 28 games played.

"Joe taught me a lot while I was on campus, particularly about baseball," former teammate and Hall of Fame member Cromer Smotherman said. "I'm just thrilled that my good friend is being honored by going into the Hall of Fame. Joe and I have been very close personal friends since 1946. We just had a very personal relationship all during that time when we were in college and it continued. We have never had a cross word. I'm so pleased Joe B. is being recognized for his accomplishments."

Jackson's accomplishments were not limited to Middle Tennessee. He played a great deal in the landscape of Murfreesboro as it is today. He held office as city councilman for 10 years, vice mayor for four years and mayor for 16 years for a combined 30 years of public service.

As mayor, he served as President of the Tennessee Municipal League and was one of the founders and first directors of the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund, which enabled cities and municipalities to borrow money at a reduced rate for public improvements. He was named Tennessee "Mayor of the Year" in 1994, and he recently had a major connector street "Joe B. Jackson Parkway" named in his honor.

"I had the pleasure and honor of working with, and for, Joe Jackson for many, many years," said Roger Haley, Murfreesboro city manager. "To say it was a privilege and honor would not show the degree of respect I have for this individual. His mark on not only (Middle Tennessee), but Murfreesboro and Rutherford County will endure for decades to come."

Athlete, loyal friend and devout leader are just a few of the words that best describe Joe B. Jackson. Now you can add Hall of Famer to the list.

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