Retired state Rep. Bill Jackson stands at the Appling home he spent years rebuilding after moving it from Wrightsboro Road.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
On a crisp winter morning, former state Rep. Bill Jackson can be found tending the fire in an outdoor fireplace he built from stones on his property.
After 34 years of public service on the Columbia County school board and three separate terms in the State House, Jackson, 70, has retired from public office. But he said he will continue to keep an eye on how the government is serving the people.
"Public service is about the opportunity to serve people," Jackson said. "For me, it was never about political power. I believe in constituent service."
It all began in 1966 with a failed bid for a seat in the state Senate. Although he lost the Senate race, he was appointed to the Columbia County school board, a position he used to help get the school board to have nonpartisan elections. He also served as chairman of the school board for four years.
"In the 1980s, we didn't have access (in Columbia County) to Murray Road which is now River Watch Parkway," Jackson said. "I ran for State House with the slogan, 'Elect Bill Jackson and we'll go to town on Murray Road' and we did."
He was instrumental in helping get the necessary $25.6 million needed to complete the project.
At his retirement roast, some of his friends have made fun of the fact that he has changed political parties. The first 10 years he served in the General Assembly were as a Democrat. In 1994 he was re-elected as a Republican.
"I never thought party meant anything big at all. I went to Atlanta for all the people who I was elected to represent," he said.
A charter member of the Columbia County Historical Society, Jackson and the group have helped to preserve area landmarks. He helped to obtain a grant to restore the Appling Cemetery.
Jackson's home speaks to his love of history and the county. The circa-1840 home was moved from its original location near Augusta Mall to Dozier Road.
"We moved it and it took me three years to rebuild it brick by brick," Jackson said. The home recently served as a backdrop for a barbecue for then-gubernatorial candidate Sonny Perdue.
Using his construction skills and experience as founder of the Tile Center in Augusta and Martinez, he rebuilt the structure after refinishing the pine for the floors and rebuilding the chimneys using the original bricks.
Jackson's love of history partially explains his opposition to locating the new courthouse annex in Evans.
"I thought it would have been nice to have a new courthouse overlooking the old one in Appling. It's amazing that it's the oldest standing courthouse in the state of Georgia and you still can't get a Coca-Cola or lunch there."
He added, "The new Justice Center is very nice."
Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Martinez, has known Jackson for years.
"I've found him to be very honest and really a good legislator," Harbin Said. "Bill was one of those people who would tell you if he disagreed with you and give you good reasons. And that's nice to have in politics."
Jackson is a member of Shiloh Methodist Church, and has two children and four grandchildren.
Along with riding horses and his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Jackson plans to use his retirement from politics to build a stone barn on his property.
"It was time to let some new person go and do the work," Jackson said. " It wasn't that I was tired but I wanted a new challenge. Life's been good to me and I'm ready for that challenge."
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