THE LIFE STORY OF A SUCCESSFUL BLACK MAN,
BENJAMIN JAMES JACKSON, SR.
Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection, UNCAsheville Ramsey Library
Benjamin James Jackson, Sr. and wife Lula Rachel Jackson: bhcP184.108.40.206.18
Jackson Market Established: 1897
Benjamin James Jackson was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina. At an
early age he came to Asheville, North Carolina. Soon, he became married to Lula Rachel
McNeil of Arden, North Carolina.
As time progressed, he became the only black to own a stall in the
Asheville City Market, a very large and old structure. He was the only man of his race in
the entire market place. It was often said that his produce of fruits and vegetables was
the most select of all.
The Jackson Market was established in 1897. The policy was to cater to
everyone with courtesy. Cafes, boarding houses, hotels, and restaurants chose Jackson's
Market for their delicacies. Most of the produce was shipped from Cincinnati, Ohio. A few
local wholesale companies furnished the food for retail use.
After a short time, trucks were purchased for speedy delivery for the
rapidly growing business. The grown girls served as clerks and bookkeepers. The older boys
drove the trucks. A few hired persons were helpers. Among them was Albert E. Manley just
from Central America, who is now Dr. Manley, president of Spelman College, Atlanta,
Some famous person once said that behind every successful man there is
an interested and devoted wife. The role that Lula Rachel Jackson played as a wife and
mother was in rearing the children. She also sewed for a few customers. There were ten
children born to this union, namely, Christopher, Marie, Lula, Ben, Jr., Hattie, Martha,
Frederick, Oliver, Helon, and Ruth.
Formal education for B. J. Jackson was quite limited, but the goals he
had for his family were high. One was the regular attendance and participation in Sunday
school, church, and B.Y.P.U. Family prayer was held every Sunday morning prior to leaving
for Sunday school. Benjamin Jackson's philosophy of life was right is always right. There
is no in-between. This idea was instilled in the children by both parents. They taught it
and lived it daily.
Another ambition he had for the ten children was to become independent
citizens by achievement. After graduation from high school, each child was encouraged to
go to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a good Baptist College, which was
our church affiliation. Most of the children became teachers after graduation except
Benjamin, who followed business administration at Howard. Hattie went into the field of
music at Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama. Lula was married to a mortician and later
became a licensed mortician from Chicago School of Embalming. Henry E. Dunn passed, and
she then assumed complete responsibility. The People's Funeral Home of Indianapolis,
Indiana is still in business, though the owners have retired.
At one time B. J. Jackson was the chorister at Nazareth First Baptist
Church of which he and the family were members. Later, the memberships were moved to Mount
Zion Missionary Baptist Church where he served as a deacon until his last days. Also he
took an active part in music as did some of his children. Hattie played the organ. He also
served as chorister for the Sunday evening song service at the Y. M. C. A. (Y.M.I.). At
that time there were few places to go aside from the church for spiritual and
inspirational growth, so the auditorium was usually filled to capacity.
Being a family man, family-get-togethers never ended. Cold, winter
evenings it was customary to have fireside song services in the living room. Everyone
enjoyed the musical festivities. Summer afternoons often found the Jackson family riding
out in the fresh air with a large basket of dinner and lemonade. There were very few paved
streets, only dusty roads, but it was fun going to the woods to eat dinner. One of the
older boys drove the seven-passenger Willys-Knight family car. It was a Christmas gift to
the family several years preceding his death.
On December 17, 1924 high blood [pressure] and an infected leg took the
life of the beloved husband, father and dedicated citizen. Much recognition and honor was
extended to him as a Christian leader and a successful businessman who sacrificed for his
family and community. Six weeks [later], his loving mate joined him in the Great Beyond on
February 7, 1925. They were laid to rest at Riverside Cemetery.
The new Asheville City Market opened in 1926 and the older children had
a stall in it, but only for a while. Each one preferred following his own life's work. The
business was sold. Each one went into his work he prepared for.
Seven of the children of Benjamin and Lula Jackson survive, namely:
Christopher, Atlanta, Ga.; Lula, Indianapolis, Ind.; Ben, Indianapolis, Ind.; Fred,
Boston, Mass.; Oliver, Pine Bluff University, Arkansas; Helon, Washington, D.C.; and Ruth,
Asheville, N.C. All have retired. Three have passed, Marie, Asheville City Schools,
Asheville, N.C.; Hattie, Washington Public Schools, D.C. and Martha, Indianapolis Public
Schools, Indianapolis, Ind.
Thus ends the life story of a successful black businessman and his
family, Benjamin James Jackson. He soared to the top of the ladder with the help and
guidance of God and the love and cooperation of his family and many friends. The limited
learning was no barrier to him, but a stepping-stone in seeing the importance of higher
"Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me,
And may there be no mourning at the bar
When I put out to sea."
_Alfred Lord Tennyson