James Lloyd Jackson was one of the little known heroes of the D-Day Landing at Normandy Beach in France in 1944. Jackson was born in Lakeland, Florida on February 25, 1920 to Essie May Holly and Amos Jackson. He graduated from Lakeland High School in 1938. For the next five years he worked for the Lakeland Fertilizer Company.
Jackson joined the U.S. Army in 1943 as a private. In 1944, just a year after joining the military, Sergeant James Jackson led a unit of the 531st Combat Engineers onto Normandy Beach at dawn in preparation for the much larger invasion that was to follow. His unit had a number of tasks including detecting land mines laid by the German Army, tearing apart barbed wire with small explosives, and setting buoys to show gaps where Allied troops could land. Jackson’s unit also captured German soldiers including Max Schmeling, the boxer who fought Joe Louis in 1937 and 1938. Jackson’s unit continued to work in battlefield settings for the rest of World War II.
James Jackson decided in 1945 to make the Army a career. In 1951 he was promoted to second lieutenant while serving in Korea. On December 27, 1953 Jackson married Octavia Mills, a former elementary school teacher from Oklahoma. The couple had five children.
At the end of the Korean War Jackson used his years in the military to further his education. While in the Army and stationed at various posts, Jackson studied at the University of Maryland, the University of Puget Sound, the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and finally Western Washington University where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1975.
During his 20 years of military service, Jackson received many decorations and awards before retiring as a major in 1963. Among them were the American Campaign Medal, the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal for Germany and Japan, the Korean Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
After retiring from the Army, Jackson worked for the city of Seattle for over 20 years. He was a Project Manager with the city’s Urban Renewal Program and the Leschi Neighborhood Development Program. Some of his projects included the Pike Place Redevelopment Project, Promenade 23, Walgreen’s, and three multi-family complexes across the city.
James Jackson also volunteered much of his time and demonstrated his love of gardening around the city. As President of Seattle’s 4-H Leader’s Association in the 1990s, he became well known as “The Plant Doctor” and mentored many urban gardeners. Jackson volunteered more than 400 hours in one year alone offering his horticulture knowledge and experiences to the Eagle Hardware center on Rainier Avenue, the Bellevue Demonstration Garden, the Central District Area Garden and numerous Seattle street fairs. Jackson was also the President of the Master Gardener Foundation, and served as Vice President of University Kiwanis.
Major James Lloyd Jackson died in Seattle on May 6, 2008 at the age of 88.