When Charles O. Jackson moved his family to Tennessee forty-seven years ago so he could join the faculty at UT, he didn’t realize the legacy he was beginning.
Each year, in honor of his life and work, the campus enjoys a lecture from an esteemed scholar of American history. Professors from Notre Dame, Brown. Temple, Emory and other universities have visited UT to lecture on topics ranging from the Freedom Riders to Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger to the history of medical quackery.
Also each year, deserving graduate students benefit from the Charles O. Jackson Memorial Fellowship. To date, eight students have received fellowship funding.
Charles O. Jackson earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Oglethorpe University and his master’s degree and doctorate in history from Emory University. He was an expert in American social and cultural history, and his work explored everything from American ideas about death and sexual deviance to food and drug legislation to the social and military history of Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
“My dad was recruited from Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia, to UT in 1969 to teach history,” said Jackson’s daughter, Holly Jackson-Sullivan, director of development for humanities in UT’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“We all packed up and moved to Vol country. Who would have known what a profound impact this decision was to make on multiple generations of our family?”
Holly’s sister, Tracy Jackson-Smith, was nine at the time. Holly was only two.
In 1972, Charles Jackson was named assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts, now the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1979, he became associate dean. During his tenure of leadership, Jackson helped create the college’s advising services office and led the transition from the quarter to the semester system. He contributed to the development of interdisciplinary programs and the College Scholars Program, and worked to implement affirmative action programs.
“Those who knew Charles Jackson, the man, saw him as devoted to his family and fiercely loyal to his friends. All recall his acerbic wit and fondness for telling endless bad jokes,” a college announcement noted when the lecture series kicked off.
Jackson-Sullivan said her father’s love for UT was contagious.
“While at UT and in Knoxville, we all became devoted Vols with our blood running deep orange,” she said. “In the twenty-seven years that my dad served the university, my mother, sister, and I all attended and graduated from UT.”
Jackson-Sullivan’s mom, Emma Jackson, received her master’s degree in educational psychology in 1987. Her sister, Tracy Jackson-Smith, received her bachelor’s degree with an individualized major in 1981, her master’s degree in college student personnel in 1982 and her law degree in 1989. Jackson-Sullivan received her bachelor’s degree with an individualized major in 1987.
“Dad lost his ten-plus year battle with leukemia in 1997, just after he had turned in his grades in winter semester 1996,” Jackson-Sullivan said. “After Dad’s passing at the age of sixty-one, my mother set up a graduate fellowship and an annual Charles O. Jackson Memorial Lecture in the history department. I am now also contributing to these funds as well.”
Since Jackson-Sullivan started working for the College of Arts and Sciences in 2013, she’s seen firsthand how many people knew her dad and held him in high regard.
“I have been touched by seeing and hearing from many of Dad’s former colleagues— retired and many still teaching—as well as heard from many of his former students,” she said. “It is an honor to represent the Humanities Division in the College of Arts and Sciences for UT and help further advance an area that my dad worked so hard in and felt so passionately about.”