Leon County was shocked to learn over the Memorial Day weekend that Leon County Commissioner and school principal Jimbo Jackson had died from complications related to the lingering effects of a COVID-19 infection. He was 55.
His proper name, which he never used, was James Daniel, but in his home community of Fort Braden and the rest of the county he was known by his nickname. And, with his 30 years in the school system — the last 14 as principal at Fort Braden School — and nearly six years on the County Commission, he was very well known.
His widow, Beth Jackson, said this was brought home to her while the couple went door-knocking in 2016 while campaigning for the Commission seat he would eventually win.
“I was just in awe of the way we would be in neighborhoods that were not Fort Braden (School) communities, but were in District 2 for the County Commission and he would know people’s names that he taught 20 years ago and know their sisters’ names and their brothers’ names and ask about their parents,” she recalled.
“I was just in awe of his memory … and knowing he knew and loved this community in a way that was a model to me. Loving and serving people was his priority.”
Leon County Administrator Vince Long praised Jackson’s “amazing empathy” in an article appearing in the Tallahassee Democrat. “I think that came from his many years of experience being a principal at a Title I school. He saw everything firsthand, the struggles that people deal with. And he had the very unique perspective to see it play out generationally, because he taught and was principal for kids and their parents and their uncles and their aunts.”
Jackson’s County Commission District and the school zone for Fort Braden cover roughly the same, mostly rural and poor, portion of Leon County — its western “toe,” bordering Lake Talquin and Wakulla, Liberty and Gadsden counties.
When asked why Jackson would take on the responsibility of a County Commission seat in addition to his full-time job as a principal, Beth Jackson put it this way: “I think he felt like it was a different way to serve the community. He never intended to go any further than the County Commission. It was always about local government for the Fort Braden community. But he felt an opportunity to serve the community in a way that I think gave a different influence — maybe a larger influence — than being a school principal.”
The couple had been married for six years. Beth Jackson is the principal at Hawks Rise Elementary School and they met when both worked for the school system. Jimbo Jackson’s first wife, the mother of his two daughters, died in a 2011 crash as she was driving to work, when she was hit by a drunk driver.
Jimbo Jackson caught COVID-19 in July 2020, in its first wave locally and before vaccinations were available. His wife, two stepsons and disabled brother were also stricken. Jackson was never hospitalized, but long-term fibrosis did leave him with a chronic cough and lowered oxygen levels. He could no longer run after the initial infection, but continued to work until four days before he died.
“The shortness of breath and not being able to run, we just thought it was annoying but not fatal” said Beth Jackson. “He’s my best friend and I miss him.”
In addition to his wife and stepsons, Jackson is survived by two daughters and three granddaughters.
Visitation is at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 2 at Downtown Community Church, 231 E. Palmer Ave. in Tallahassee. A memorial service will follow at 11 a.m. Donations to the Foundation for Leon County Schools will be earmarked for Jimbo’s Fund, which will be used to support Fort Braden School.