Fr. Jay Jackson

My last post mentioned a friend of mine in Rome, Jay Jackson. I have never forgotten him largely because he believed in me at a time when I was discombobulated and because he played guitar very well.

Fr. Jay died tragically in May of 1981, less than a year after his ordination to the priesthood. He was shot in his rectory by an intruder who later was convicted of Jay’s murder as well as two other murders.

I ran across Fr. Jay’s obituary today, and want to share it with you.



In his brief 35 years of life Father Jay Jackson had established an enviable reputation as a loving, empathetic human being. He was always ready to listen, to offer help to those who needed it. He was always cheerful and positive, the type of person who had a great effect on others. Jay Jackson was a Californian by birth, but he had been transplanted to Tennessee when his parents moved to Tullahoma. After graduating from Tullahoma High School, he attended the University of Tennessee, majoring in journalism. During the Vietnam War, as a young Air Force officer he flew transports between Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and Vietnam for two years between 1968 and 1970, flying in arms and munitions and returning with cargoes of wounded soldiers or the bodies of dead soldiers. The combination of all these experiences and a growing conviction against the violence and waste of war compelled him to apply for a conscientious objector discharge from his five-year obligation to the Air Force. After an honorable discharge from the service, he took a position as reporter for the Jackson Sun and later for the West Tennessean. After the demise of that paper, having become interested in those needing help and very active in his faith, he became public relations director for JACOA (Jackson Area Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency). In the 1974-76 period he began to consider the priesthood. He entered the seminary in 1976 and was sent to the North American College in Rome where he earned master’s degrees in sacred and pastoral theologies from the Angelicum. Just ten months before his death he was ordained by Bishop Dozier, said his first Mass in Tullahoma, and was assigned as Associate Pastor at St. Mary in Jackson. With his love of life and music, his musicianship on the guitar, his appeal to young people, his sensitivity to the needs of others, and his gift for communicating with others plus an inability to say “No” to almost any request, he was soon a unique, invaluable and deeply appreciated addition to Jackson’s religious community. He had hoped to be able to use his journalism and communication experience to assist others, and during the August before his death, Bishop Dozier had appointed him coordinator of electronic media for the diocese. Father Jay Associate Pastor at St. Mary, Jackson, was murdered in the rectory, near St. Mary School on the Highway 45 Bypass. Returning to the rectory late that evening after dinner with a parish family, he apparently surprised a robber and was shot by that intruder, who it turned out, had been doing odd jobs on the grounds for the previous four days. It was later learned that the murderer was an escapee from Shelby County who had been indicted for the murder of a police officer there. Father Jay was buried on the priest’s hill in Calvary Cemetery after a Mass of Resurrection celebrated at the Jackson Coliseum before 1200 attendees with more than 90 fellow priests, some his seminary classmates from all over the country, concelebrating.


May he rest in peace. Amen.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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