Ex-High Court Librarian, Jackson, Dies at 93

Charleston Gazette
November 4, 1978

Denver - James Arthur Jackson, 93-year-old former West Virginia Supreme Court law librarian, died Monday in a hospital here after a short illness.

He served 64 continuous years in state government, longer than any other state employee in the history of West Virginia.

The former official had been living here to be near members of his family since he retired in 1965 at age 80.

Jackson began his career as a messenger and assistant court librarian in the old statehouse at Charleston on May 1, 1901, at age 16 and a salary of $4 a week. In 1925, he was appointed law librarian, a post he held until he retired.

While working in the old Capitol Annex, on the site of the National Bank of Commerce, he became one of the first to see the fire that consumed the West Virginia Capitol on Jan. 3, 1921. The capitol sprawled on the area now occupied by the Diamond Department Store, old Kanawha Valley Bank Building and other business establishments.

Jackson was born at Coal Valley (later Montgomery) on Jan. 17, 1885. The family moved to Charleston, where Jackson's father was employed as foreman of a six-chair barber shop on Capitol Street.

Young Jackson was one of three members in the first class at old Garnet High School in 1898. He entered West Virginia State College, with plans to enroll in medical school later in his college career.

A skating accident damaged his eyesight and forced cancellation of plans to attend medical school. He later fully regained his vision, however.

As a young man, he was an all-around athlete. In 1901, he organized the first black football team in Charleston. From about 1903 to 1909, he was rated the black singles tennis champion in Charleston.

He began an amateur acting career at age 6 with a role in "Damon and Pythias" at the Burlew Opera House on Capitol Street. He continued to participate in Charleston dramas over a long period of time.

He was a member of the First Baptist Church in Charleston and formerly served as chairman of its board of trustees.

Jackson was well known for his remarkable memory as a librarian. Without taking a single note, he once went into the stack room and correctly selected 13 books requested by a judge.

In 1963, the West Virginia Library Association presented him a certificate of merit in recognition of many years of outstanding service. The five judges of the Supreme Court honored him with a special ceremony on the day of his retirement.

Surviving: wife, Gertrude Jackson; daughters, Mrs. Jane J. Drane of Denver, Mrs. Barbara J. Ross of Topeka, Kans,; six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren.

The body is at Kirk Mortuary, Denver. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

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