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Abner Jean "Val" Jackson

For nearly sixty years, the Jackson Mortuary has been an institution in Wichita, Kansas. The family-owned and -operated mortuary and its owners, twin brothers Abner Val Jean Jackson, Sr. and Anderson Eugene Jackson, hold a place of honor in the community of Wichita.

Abner Val Jackson, Sr. was born in Wichita in 1933. He graduated from North High School. He served in the U.S. Army and had the distinction of being one of the first African American to serve with the Wichita Fire Department. He left the department in 1967 after twelve years to join the family business. While running the business, he and his wife, Erma, operated Jackson Realty and Skin Appeal Cosmetics, managed Calvary Towers Senior Citizen Housing Project and had other business holdings. In 1982, Jackson retired and turned the mortuary business over to his twin sons.

Along with his position as vice president of Jackson Mortuary, earning his funeral director’s license in 1961, Jackson served his community through his membership in organizations like the National Urban League and the NAACP. He was involved in policymaking for the City of Wichita and was honored by the city and the State of Kansas in acknowledgment of his commitment to the community. He served as chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Board of Directors for the City of Wichita and the Board of Trustees for Wichita’s Calvary Baptist Church. Jackson has four children: Val Jean Jackson, Jr.; Michael E. Jackson; Kimberly Jackson-Landrum; and Stephanie Jackson Cousin. He also has eleven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Jackson passed away on October 14, 2002.

Jackson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 30, 2002.

Accession Number

A2002.171

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

8/30/2002

Last Name

Jackson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widow

Middle Name

Jean

Organizations
Schools

Wichita North High School

Wichita State University

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Abner

Birth City, State, Country

Wichita

HM ID

JAC06

Favorite Season

November, December

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Whatever it takes.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Kansas

Birth Date

4/22/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Wichita

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Cabbage, Spinach, Ham Hocks

Death Date

10/14/2002

Short Description

Mortuary owner and civic activist Abner Jean "Val" Jackson (1933 - 2002 ) is co-owner of Jackson's Mortuary in Wichita, Kansas.

Employment

Jackson Mortuary

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Abner Jackson interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Abner Jackson's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Abner Jackson describes his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Abner Jackson remembers his grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Abner Jackson discusses his parents' avocations

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Abner Jackson recounts his childhood in Wichita, Kansas

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Abner Jackson reflects on life with his twin brother, Genie

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Abner Jackson recalls growing up with his twin brother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Abner Jackson details his high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Abner Jackson recounts his early career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Abner Jackson describes running a family funeral business

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Abner Jackson discusses the rewards of living in a community where everyone knows each other

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Abner Jackson discusses different types of funeral wakes or repasts

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Abner Jackson reflects on his life and career

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Abner Jackson discusses his community activities

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Abner Jackson ponders his legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Abner Jackson illustrates his parents' pride in his career

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Abner Jackson reflects on how he'd like to be remembered

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Photo - Newspaper clipping about Abner Jackson, Wichita, Kansas, ca. 1967-1968

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Photo - Abner Jackson with his brother in the Army, Bayonne, New Jersey, ca. 1954-1955

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Photo - Abner Jackson with his wife, Erma Jackson, Wichita, Kansas, ca. early 1990s

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Photo - Abner Jackson with his twin brother, Wichita, Kansas

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Photo - Abner Jackson with his brother, Anderson Eugene Jackson, Charles McAfee, and Cendant representative, Wichita, Kansas

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Photo - Abner Jackson with his family, Wichita, Kansas, ca. 1989-1990

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Photo - Abner Jackson with his twin brother, Eugene, and neighbor, Leila Mae Baker, Wichita, Kansas, ca. 1935

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Photo - Abner Jackson with his twin brother, Anderson Eugene Jackson, Wichita, Kansas, ca. 1936

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - Photo - Abner Jackson 'hanging' on telephone pole with his brother below, Wichita, Kansas, ca. 1930s

Tape: 3 Story: 16 - Photo - Abner Jackson with his twin brother and parents in front of their company hearse, Wichita, Kansas, ca. 1934-1935

Tape: 3 Story: 17 - Photo - Shiloh Baptist Church, Wichita, Kansas, 1943

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

4$4

DATitle
Abner Jackson remembers his grandfather
Abner Jackson describes running a family funeral business
Transcript
My grandfather [Abner Jackson, Sr.] used to be mail--on the mail, mail run for the railroad. And I don't know which railroad it was either. They never did talk too much, and, of course, you might have run in the same situation. They didn't, they didn't talk too much about yesterday, yeah, didn't talk too much about yesterday. So everything we know right now, we done had to go through obituaries and, and funeral programs and all that stuff to kind of get some background. And my dad [Abner Jackson, Jr.] put, and my dad said, "I don't have to have no obituary." So they put on his, nothing but 'The Lord's Prayer' (laughs), in lieu of obitu--in lieu of the obituary. So--.$$(Simultaneously) He didn't have any obituary about himself at all? Just you say, 'The Lord's Prayer'.$$Yeah, he just had 'The Lord's Prayer'. He, he didn't want no obituary on there. He said, "I ain't"--he said, "I lived, and that's it." And so mama [Janett Jackson] put on his tombstone out there, "Rest in Peace" (laughs)--R.I.P., he'd like that.$$Okay, now how did you grandfather--did you know your grandfather who started this business?$$Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, gramps, 'Dapper Gramps' [Abner Jackson], that's what we used to call him.$$What was that again?$$Dapper Gramps. Yeah, he loved to play Coon Can, you know the game?$$No, I don't.$$Okay, he said, "Some coons can, some coons can't." That's all (laughs). But, yeah, yeah, Gramps--see, we moved over--we moved out of the house over here on Cleveland [Street, Wichita, Kansas] over into the basement of the mortuary over on Water Street, the one you see the picture out there on the wall. We moved over there when I was four years old, stayed there thirteen years. And Gramps stayed in one part of the basement, and we stayed in the other part, which it wasn't nothing but three rooms. So it had one room for us and one room for Gramps. And he was quite a character, quite a character, loved his cigars. He'd smoke them till the ash get that long. And then just nod his head (laughs), wherever the ash went, yeah. But he was a good businessman.$$What did he do for a living before he started the mortuary? How did he do it?$$He went to--he moved to Kansas City, Kansas, and it was a cat name--a guy, a funeral director named Nathan Thatcher, Thatcher['s] Funeral Home, still in Kansas City, Kansas, they started hanging around as old [Masonic] lodge buddies. And Gramps was a Thirty-Third Mason and so was Mr. Thatcher, is the way I understand it. And they just, Gramps just started hanging around the mortuary, and then he decided to go to school there in Kansas City, embalming school. And twenty-six, like I said, July the tenth, 1926, he decided to move to Wichita [Kansas]. And we had a storefront over on Main Street. And then he--in 1932, he built that mortuary, the building, single-purpose building. Of course, couldn't get no financing, but he had--I remember him stating he--twelve, all of $12,000 to build that building. I said, "You sure stayed with the twelves, didn't you?" He said, "Yeah, twelve, $1,200 of capital to, to keep me open for a few days and it cost me $12,000 to build the building." And saved all this money, saved all this money. My, my dad would turn over in his grave if he figured out that Genie [Anderson Eugene Jackson] and I had, had, had gone through the processes of financing, financing some of the improvements we made around here and the acquisitions. He didn't believe in borrowing no money. Said, "Well shoot, all you got to do is set it over there." But, it came right down to a very, very independent family, very independent. Seven [days a week], twenty-four [hours a day], 365 [days a year], they say. That's, that's how much time they put in the business, and afraid it wore off on us. It really wore off on my son [Michael Jackson] here lately cause he, he gets home, he gets home whenever. Genie and I, we--he takes a lot of that off of us now, so we don't have to really do seven, twenty-four. We got a answering service, now after seven o'clock in the evening. Shoot, when my dad was running this place, shoot, we had one line, and one phone. Nobody was the, nobody went anywhere without somebody manning the phone, manning the door. So we started out early putting in that seven, twenty-four.$$Now, when your grandfather started this business, was he the first black funeral home director here in Wichita or were there others?$$No, there was, there was a Butler Funeral Home here, and he ran them out of town. That's the way he likes to brag about it, said, "I run one of them out of town" and say, "Bring them on, bring on the rest of them (laughs)." But he was very confident in his--he always told us, said, "Don't worry about the money anyway" and he said "It's the service that counts." He said, "The service bring in the money," and, and he believed that. He believed that. In all he--there's been one, two, three other funeral homes here, and we're the only ones that's, that have stayed or sustained three other black funeral homes. One of them is in, in Topeka [Kansas], it's Johnson Funeral Home now, and Butler, he just closed up.$I guess in the funeral business, correct me if I'm wrong, there're two different aspects to the businesses it seems to be or maybe even three. One aspect is the embalmment of a person, and that's quite different from actually serving the grieving family and--,$$(Simultaneously) Oh, yeah.$$--and being a host for a funeral service.$$Right.$$And then the other aspect, I guess, is dealing with the place of internment, wherever that is, right?$$Oh, you can--.$$(Simultaneously) (Unclear) make that arrangement with the graveyard.$$Right.$$So tell, just tell me about how does one conduct this business and what are the components of it?$$The first, the first aspect of it is very important, the embalming and, and cosmetology and, and getting the person ready for, for the family's approval, of course. And that takes a lot of it. I mean that, that's, that's one of the things that Genie [Anderson Eugene Jackson], Genie and Michael [Jackson] both were very well schooled in. And they still do a good job. But that son of mine, he takes pride in that, which I'm glad. And he gets a lot of compliments, and he kind of shrugs them off, you know, a forty-two year old--forty, Michael's forty-six. And, but then the next phase runs into where you meet the family. You meet the family and, and set some arrangements together and make the arrangements for the cemetery and make arrangements for, for the actual carrying out the funeral program in itself. But the real test, the real test is when you're conducting--at least I think it is, when you're conducting the services and so forth at the church or chapel or whatever--cause you got folks come in there, "I'm her cousin. I want a seat up in the front." "You should have come with the original family, son." And it's a way you say that, you know. And, and usually goes down, but it's dealing with folk on, on a one-on-one basis that--we tell, we tell them, we got this young lady up in the front, Stephanie, that is very good. We were blessed to get her as far as I was concerned. She, her daddy and I was raised up together about two blocks from each other over on the West side, and we never lost contact. And she always wanted to work in the business so John asked, John asked if maybe we might have a opening one of these days. And we, we dealt with that. We're very concerned about who represents us in whatever capacity, and I think that's one of the, one of the things that wears some folk out. There was a story, there was a story that--I don't remember who told it to me, but it's been a few years ago, that a dad would send his son to college, got him a, got him a B.A. degree and almost a Masters in Business Administration, and blah, blah, blah; and waiting on, waiting on him to graduate, put a little sign on the door with his name on it and blah--and then called him in and had a conversation with him. And he said, "I want you to start, start out there in the, in the garage and the yard with so and so, and learn everything that he does and then we'll talk again, and I'll see if I'll move you inside and turn you over to one of the counselors. And you'll learn everything here." And the son kept saying, "No, I don't think so, dad." He said, "Well, what do you want?" He said, "I want to sell you my fifty percent." (laughs) His dad gave his fifty percent of the business when he got out of college. "I want to sell you my fifty percent." Was it dad [Abner Jackson, Jr.] or somebody or another--it had to be a funeral director that had to tell me that story. But he said, "That's what you call an ingrate." And I, I never want to put myself in that position, but there's not too many, as you, as you probably know, there ain't too many people across the country can go back four or five generations, cause it's always a break off at some time. There's nobody with a family name that, that's actually running, running a operation. A lot of, a lot of funeral directors nowadays, especially the older ones, they'll pick up somebody and make them general manager of the mortuary and, and just go home and send me a check. Yeah, and we haven't been that fortunate. We haven't had to do that part of it, but it's a seven [days a week], twenty-four [hours a day] and a lot of folk don't want to be in this business. When mama wants, got to go to the PTA [Parent-Teacher Association] meeting, and there's something, something that mama's planned for the children or either for herself personally, you know. You do the best--next best thing, whatever keeps you at home, (laughs) which a lot of times you turn down those invitations cause you got something else to do so far as the business is concerned. I think that's about probably, that's probably the most restriction that I've ever run into this business anyway. Of course, they, like you say, they got telephones and pagers and all that kind of stuff now, and first thing I do when I walk in a room, I put my telephone there on the side, and set, on the table or either the chair next to it. I turn the volume up on the boy 'cause ain't no telling when I get a call. And if I get call, "Bye y'all, I'm gone." (laughs) So it's, it's challenging. It really is. It is challenging.

Anderson Jackson

Businessman and community leader Anderson "Gene" Jackson has taken the family business, Jackson Mortuary, to new levels. Founded in 1926 by his grandfather, Jackson Mortuary was opened to serve Wichita's African American community and under Jackson's leadership, continues to do so today. Born on April 22, 1933, to Janett and Abner Jackson, Jr., Jackson's commitment to maintaining the family tradition has resulted in national recognition, growth, and commitment to service.

Jackson has spent the majority of his life in the family business. After returning from military service in 1955, he began work at Jackson Mortuary. In 1968, Jackson received his mortician's license from California Mortuary of Science. In 1982, after the death of his father, Abner Jackson, Jr., he became president of Jackson Mortuary and has grown the business significantly.

In addition to being a successful mortician, Jackson is extremely active in the Wichita community in both business and civic capacities. Jackson sits on the boards of many organizations committed to community economic development, including the Private Industry Council and the Kansas Department of Commerce. Additionally, Jackson was elected to the Kansas Gas and Electric Company's Board of Directors in March 1994 and he serves as president of the Wichita Chapter of the National Business League. He formerly served as president of the Kansas State Board of Mortuary Arts.

Jackson's business leadership and the commitment of the Jackson Mortuary to family service continues into a fifth generation. Jackson is married to Barbara Jackson and they are the parents of two daughters, Debra Dudley and Timna Jackson, and the grandparents of three.

Anderson Jackson passed away on September 9, 2012.

Accession Number

A2002.165

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/30/2002

Last Name

Jackson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

E.

Organizations
Schools

Wichita North High School

California College of Mortuary Science

First Name

Anderson

Birth City, State, Country

Wichita

HM ID

JAC05

Favorite Season

October, November

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Dallas, Texas

Favorite Quote

I'm still putting up with it.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Kansas

Birth Date

4/22/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Wichita

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Beans (Green)

Death Date

9/9/2012

Short Description

Mortuary owner and civic activist Anderson Jackson (1933 - 2012 ) is the co-owner of Jackson's Mortuary in Wichita, Kansas. Founded in 1926, by his grandfather, Jackson Mortuary was opened to serve Wichita's African American community and under Jackson's leadership, continues to do so today. He formerly served as president of the Kansas State Board of Mortuary Arts.

Employment

Jackson Mortuary

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Anderson Jackson interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Anderson Jackson's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Anderson Jackson remembers his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Anderson Jackson discusses his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Anderson Jackson remembers the Wichita, Kansas community of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Anderson Jackson describes his childhood avocations

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Anderson Jackson recalls his home life

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Anderson Jackson discusses the birth of he and twin, Abner Jackson

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Anderson Jackson describes life with his twin brother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Anderson Jackson discusses his family's values

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Anderson Jackson recalls his educational and career pursuits in the 1950s, 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Anderson Jackson describes his family relations

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Anderson Jackson describes the philosophy behind his family's funeral home

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Anderson Jackson discusses trends in the mortuary services industry

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Anderson Jackson describes the diverse funerals he has arranged

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Anderson Jackson discusses the role of empathy in the mortuary services industry

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Anderson Jackson recalls his tenure on the Kansas State Board of Mortuary Arts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Anderson Jackson discusses the vision of the National Business League of Wichita, Kansas

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Anderson Jackson considers successors to his family's business

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Anderson Jackson discusses his civic involvement in Wichita, Kansas

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Anderson Jackson reflects on the economic prospects of young African Americans

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Anderson Jackson shares his personal philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Anderson Jackson describes how he'd like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Anderson Jackson discusses his family's values
Anderson Jackson recalls his tenure on the Kansas State Board of Mortuary Arts
Transcript
We'd [Anderson and his twin brother Abner Val Jean Jackson] get out of school at 2:30, sixth hour, and we'd have to come home and, and either work in the yard, clean up the cars, clean up this. Dad [Abner Bernard Jackson, Jr.] always had something for us to do in a sense because he, he and Mother [Janet Lorraine Jones Jackson] bought the business [Jackson Mortuary] in '50 [1950] from, from my grandfather [Abner B. Jackson, Sr.]. And so they needed our help. And so we didn't get a chance to participate in sports in our senior year at all, football, track, basketball, baseball, even though the coaches wanted Daddy, and, and spoke to Daddy and Mother about the fact that, well, let one of them play basketball or let one of them play , play baseball, and the other come. And says, nah, we, we've always treated 'em exactly--if one, if one works, both of 'em work. I find it very comforting now, Larry, that my dad would never finish a job, never intended to finish a job. If he started cutting the grass, he, he never intended to finish cutting it. You're supposed to have the instinct and the initiative to come out there (laughs) and finish it and send him back in the house or something--washing a car--and I find that today, you know, to the extent that, that I, I've never--well, my, my children especially, they, they always step to the forward cause I tell them the story about my dad. I said, if I start washing these dishes, you know you gonna finish them, or if I start cutting this grass, you know you gonna finish it. And I've taught them work ethics, and, and that's, that's what I gained from it too, the ability to work. But sports wise and other wise, we were good, but we just wasn't able to participate in, in high school or even college sport. We played during the summer because Dad was, allowed us to really--because he really wanted us to play, but work was a--at the business was, had its priority.$I served on the state board here in Kansas for ten years.$$This is the state board of--?$$[Kansas] State Board of Mortuary Arts now. And I served on the--I was a-appointed by three governors, different governors, some Republican and Democrat. And I was president of the state board three times. First anybody that had been ever elected to the state board for three years as president. I hear kids now that I've licensed, and my name's on their, on their licenses and I run into 'em around the state some time, and they say, "Hey, Mr. Jackson, your name's on my license." I say, you (laughter), you mean I've been around that long? He said, yeah, I remember. He said, you was a tough cookie, but I learned a lot from you. And especially, most of the communications that came to us as consumer complaints was about insensitivity and the, and the communications that professionals quote, quote related to families. And, and some couldn't, couldn't stand to be around this person because he said, like--acted like he was in a hurry or he, he had something else to do and we were inconveniencing him and, and those kinds of things. You, you know, you can give people like that, attitude wise feeling too, but they always--well, not always, I guess, but they tell me, they says, I'm glad you stayed there that long because I, I, I--when I did go off, Governor [Bill] Graves who's there now, he says, I would have appointed you again, Mr. Jackson, but he says, it was a funeral director over there in my old hometown of Salina [Kansas], that, that wanted to be on the board. And I said, that's fine. So I calls up--I, I knew him, and I called up [Stephen C.] Ryan, and I said, Ryan, I want to congratulate you on being appointed to the state board. Now, do a good job. And he says, is this you Gene? I said, yeah. He said, man, I thought maybe you might be upset about it. I've done my time. It's time for somebody else, but if it was necessary for me to be there another term, I would have been there. And I wouldn't have to apologize to nobody else for being there three more years.