Former state Rep. Bill Jackson, appointed this past week by Gov. Sonny Perdue to the state Board of Corrections, has a long and distinguished resume.
In addition to 16 years in the Georgia General Assembly after serving on the Columbia County School Board - he was one of the first elected members of the board after the county did away with selection by grand jury in 1968 - Jackson also is a business owner and civic leader.
I'm sure Perdue appointed Jackson because of his leadership abilities. The fact that Jackson held a big fund-raiser for Perdue at his Appling farm while Perdue was running for office three years ago probably didn't hurt, either.
Jackson's leadership skills would be useful around here again, too. His son Billy reminded me the other day that his father was instrumental back in the 1980s when the Evans pillars and arch had to be moved out of the way of the widening of Washington Road.
Bill Sr., whose Tile Center business sells a lot of stone, showed how to shore up the pillars and arch with wood braces and move them with heavy equipment, Billy said.
Now that the structures are again threatened - this time not by road-widening, but by the pending turnover of Evans Middle School's property to private developers - Jackson's expertise could be helpful again.
Evans Middle's new principal, Michael Johnson, has taken a leadership role in seeking private funding for moving the structures. Developer Vic Mills, who swung the deal to buy the site, has already pledged to help pay for the move. Though Johnson says he'd prefer tax dollars go to the classroom, it's expected the school board will help, too.
The rest will come from donations. The middle school's final game, ever, on the 50-year-old Evans football field will be played Oct. 11; Johnson plans to take up donations at the gate to help move the 80-year-old stone pillars and arch.
"I really feel the community will rise to the occasion," Johnson told a reporter. "I've had a lot of folks call and tell me they're interested in donating money to save them. They're just waiting to hear the price."
Many in the community, particularly those who graduated from the school when it was still Evans High School, also are waiting to hear where the pillars and arch will go.
The ideas floating around include moving all of them to the new Evans Middle campus under construction on Hereford Farm Road or to Evans High School's campus on Cox road; moving some of them to each campus; and moving some to each campus and the rest to Appling at the school board office where the grounds are gradually becoming an outdoor museum.
Jackson, who helped build a memorial on that site for former School Superintendent John Pierce Blanchard, for whom the Evans High stadium is named, would probably like that idea.
Here's one more. In a conversation about the future of the new park the county will build at Doctors Hospital Field, Billy suggested moving the pillars and arch there. It would preserve the structures as a publicly accessible and highly visible Evans landmark, and provide a historical focal point for the new park.
I doubt the Evans alumni would go for it, but I like the idea.
Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that the school system's Johns Building in Grovetown, which houses some county offices and the alternative school, has similar stone pillars on its property?
Congratulations to Bill Jackson on his new post on the Board of Corrections. I'm sure if there's anyone out there who knows how to set people straight, he's our man.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.