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Jackson in the 1940s as a Navy man

From Normandy to Tallassee

By Michael Butler

Harry Jackson has been in Tallassee most of his life. Most know him as the former president of what used to be called Peoples Bank. He is now 94.

Jackson was born in Baconton, Ga. At the age of 13, he moved to Cuthbert, Ga. He graduated high school there.

"When we graduated from high school, every man in the class went into the service," Jackson said. "I was going to turn 18 in November after graduating in May. I did not want to go into the Army, so I volunteered for the Navy. I was sworn in on my 18th birthday."

World War II had already begun when Jackson enlisted.

"I went to boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill. I was assigned to Key West, Fla. to learn to be what they call a sonar man now. I was assigned to a sub chaser at Maport, Fla. I hadn't been on the sub chaser very long when we got the word to go into dry dock and prepare for overseas service. Very shortly (after), we were on our way to New York to be put aboard a ship (for) to Europe to get ready for the Normandy invasion."

Jackson arrived in Europe a few weeks prior to the invasion at Normandy.

"There were five beachheads. The Americans had two, the Omaha and Utah. The Omaha lost a lot of men. Our ship was the Utah. Utah was divided into two beaches, red beach and green beach. Our job was to steer and guide the landing ships that carried tanks. Unfortunately the tank that was right in front of us hit a mine and blew up. We recovered eight soldiers, eight tankmen and one sailor from that disaster."

Jackson got a brief respite following Normandy.

"We went back to England for some R&R (rest and recuperation). We reported back to Cherbourg, France."

Jackson returned home from France but it did not end his wartime service.

"I had a 30-day leave. When I reported back supposedly to my ship, I found out it had not come home. It stayed over in Europe. I was transferred to another ship in Miami, Fla. After six months there, we got the word again go into dry dock and prepare for overseas service.

"They took off all the K guns and put 20 millimeter guns in every place they could find. The 20 millimeter is a rapidfire short-range gun that's good for shooting down airplanes. We were on our way then to what would be the invasion of Japan. Our job when we got there was to get between the big ships and the shore and shoot down the kamikazes. Thank God we didn't get that far."

The tour of service did still go through Japan, China and Guam for Jackson.

"We were in Guam when my time was up. I had served my duration in six months. That's what I signed up for."

Those six months gave Jackson an new perspective on life.

"I became a man for sure, from an 18 year old to a veteran. I learned the value of life. Life is a precious thing. It can be taken away from you in a blink."

Jackson graduated from North Georgia College after his term in the service.

"I had a job waiting for me at First National Bank in Auburn. I was there for five years. Then I made the biggest mistake of my career. I moved to a bank in Florida. After nine months there I had a chance to get back to my home state of Georgia. I was in Griffin for two years. Then I heard about a new bank that was being organized in Carrville, Ala."

The year was 1958. The bank was the People's Bank of Carrville.

"That was quite an adventure to start a bank from scratch. Carrville was an incorporated town. It was a bustling little town at that time. We had two clothing stores, a drug store, two hardwares, a cafe. We had everything a little town needed. It's really sad to drive through there now and see what's left."

Years after Jackson's arrival, he thought his time was up in Carrville due to a decision by some of the bank's stockholders.

"They never did give me a real reason. They told me that several of the larger stockholders did not like the way I was running the bank, so they fired me without warning or notice. The entire staff of ladies that worked there saw the injustice in that, so they quit. They turned in their keys. The bank couldn't operate without people, so they called me back in and hired me again. They gave me a promotion."

Jackson served as chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president at the bank prior to retirement.

Today, he and Shirley, his wife of 71 years, reside in East Tallassee.