S.W. “Bud” Jackson and his wife Paula left a powerful legacy for their children through the behaviors they modeled. They left another legacy for the students of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith through their lives of generous giving.
Their daughter, Ellen Knight, said both her parents were interested in higher education, and they knew a college degree could change lives. So neither their final gift of $227,000 upon Bud Jackson’s death in February nor their lifetime giving of more than $518,000 to the university is surprising.
Bud Jackson was not one to talk about issues, Knight said. He was one to act.
“Daddy was really good about acting if he thought something or someone needed a boost. Sometimes you could see him thinking about it, but he wouldn’t say anything. He would just do it,” Knight said.
She said she and her brother Walton Jackson understood his actions even when he didn’t explain them.
“I think the great thing he gave me was a real sense of equality and egalitarianism,” she said. “That was the great underpinning he brought to his own life.”
When people would complain about the way things were, she said, he would ask, “Why don’t you do something to help?”
He believed that “everyone had value and everyone is responsible for your family, your community, and your country,” Knight said.
She remembers her mother, Paula, as equally principled.
“Mother had a great interest in higher education,” Knight said. “They were both lifelong learners. They read a lot. Mother loved literature, and she was an independent thinker.”
When she believed people needed to know what she thought, Paula Jackson would sometimes write a letter to the editor. Knight says she admired her mother for “courageously signing her name to her letters,” no matter what other people might think.
“I was really proud of her. I’d see other people write letters and not sign them. I thought, ‘What the heck? This is a democracy. If you’re going to say something, at least stand up and put your name on it.’”
The Jacksons followed their beliefs with action. In a history of giving that spanned more than three decades, they supported everything from the Season of Entertainment to the Jane Sargent Volleyball Locker Room, but their main gifts went to scholarships. They funded the C.A. and Carrie T. Lick Scholarship Endowment, the C.A. and Carrie T. Lick Book Scholarship Endowment, the Paula Lemley Jackson Scholarship Endowment, and the Lucile Lick and S. Walton Jackson Sr. Scholarship Endowment. Their final scholarship was the Ellen Jackson Knight and Walton Lemley Jackson Scholarship Endowment. It supports students seeking two-year degrees through UAFS technical programs, something Jackson said helps students, the university, and the community, which benefits through the addition of skilled laborers to the workforce.
Bud Jackson’s name is known widely through Fort Smith. He impacted many lives through his forward-thinking leadership at Weldon, Williams, and Lick. Knight remembers health-related changes he made at WWL, including bringing in healthful lunches and exercise programs “for employees who wanted it.”
Jim Walcott, executive chairman of WWL, also remembers Jackson as a man of action.
He “was my mentor and friend; for that I will always be grateful,” Walcott said. “Bud demonstrated in his actions his love of family, friends, the community, and WW&L.”
UAFS Board of Visitors member Cathy Williams remembers interacting with Jackson on the Partners in Education program when she worked for the Fort Smith Public School district.
“He was the founding father of the FSPS Partners in Education,” she said. “He led WWL in a model partnership with Howard Elementary. He encouraged his employees to become involved with Howard, and he personally continued to support Howard Elementary even after he retired.”
The annual Bud Jackson Outstanding Partner in Education recognizes the district’s memorable school and business partnership. “It’s a small way we have ensured that his kindness and generous support are remembered,” Williams said.
Anne Thomas, interim chief development officer for the UAFS Foundation, said she still misses Bud Jackson’s visits to campus, but she is grateful to be able to help bring his final wishes to fruition.
“We are so grateful to Paula and Bud Jackson for their friendship and their gifts to the university. Knowing that they thought enough of UAFS to share the fruits of their labor with our students inspires us to keep working to make affordable education available to as many people as possible. We know the Jacksons thought education was important to help people become their best selves and to help our community prosper. We are committed to making sure we use their money to serve their intentions.”