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Jackson leaves behind legacy

By Angie Long

He was a selfless man with a fabled sense of humor who never met a stranger, a law enforcement officer sworn to protect and serve, and a faithful pastor who sought in all facets of his life “to reconnect the unconnected with God.” Friends, church members, co-workers and family all say he will be greatly missed.

Eric Spencer Jackson, 50, died last Saturday, July 25, from a heart attack in his Fort Deposit home.

Following Tuesday night’s visitation, a second visitation was held from 8:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning,
July 29, at Dunklin & Daniels Funeral Home in Greenville. A large law enforcement-led funeral procession that lasted over five minutes was held from the funeral home to Sunrise Memorial Park.

Graveside services were held at
10 a.m. at the cemetery with Bro. Bruce Coker and Bro. Steve Smith officiating.

Jackson is survived by his wife of almost 28 years, Vickie, and two children, daughter, Rachel, an architecture major at Auburn and son, Spencer, who plans to attend Trenholm State Community College in the fall.   

Known as Deputy Jackson to some for his service with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and Brother or Pastor Eric to others in his capacity as hospice chaplain for SouthernCare, Butler County Sheriff’s Office chaplain and senior pastor of Lifeline Church in Greenville, Jackson was a familiar and beloved face across the county.

“Mr. Eric definitely served our community in more than just one way,” Anna Findley, a Lifeline Church member, said. “Not only was he a respectful first responder, but he is also the preacher who helped my family be led to Christ. For that, I will always be thankful for him.”

Jackson began his career in law enforcement after graduating from the Mobile Police Academy in 1993, continuing to serve communities in south Alabama right up until his death. Over the years, Jackson served in the City of Mobile Police Department, the police departments in Georgiana and Fort Deposit and as a deputy with both Lowndes County’s and Butler County’s Sheriff offices.

Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond recalls Jackson as a deputy with a persistently positive attitude.

“Eric would always come in the office with a smile,” Bond said. “He would ask if I was OK, and I would say everything is good.  He would always say, ‘Keep doing what you are doing, and know that I have your back.’ Sometimes Eric would come in my office and say, ‘Hey, you need to take a break.’ My reply would be, ‘Brother, I just don’t have the time.’ Well, the next thing you know, Eric would pull out a Kit Kat candy bar, toss it on my desk and say, ‘Now, you can take a break.’”

Bond paused and laughed.

“I am going to miss those moments,” he added. “He was not only a good deputy; Eric was a great person.”

A 2000 graduate of the Southwestern Theological Seminary in Dallas-Fort Worth, Jackson went on to pastor several churches, including Dobbs Valley Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Deposit and New Home Baptist Church in Titus before being led to plant a new church, Lifeline, in the Greenville area.

Bruce Coker worked as an associate pastor with Jackson at Lifeline.

“Eric and I go back 20 years,” Coker explained. “I first got to know him when  I was a deacon at Bethel when he served as pastor. We’ve maintained a friendship ever since.”

Coker describes his fellow pastor and leader at Lifeline as “a guy with big dreams.”

“Eric had a big vision because he had a big God,” Coker said. “There was one thing that was never in question regarding Eric, and that was the focus of his heart. Eric’s heart was always about reaching people for Jesus.”

Coker says he and Jackson perfectly complemented each other in their leadership positions at the growing church, which recently moved to its new location in the former Woodland Heights Methodist Church building.

“You could say my strengths were his weaknesses and his strengths were my weaknesses,” Coker said. “Together, we were able to put together a strong leadership team at Lifeline, and we plan to carry forth that vision he established for us.”

Formerly chaplain for Alacare Home Health and Hospice, Jackson had served as hospice chaplain at SouthernCare since November 2018. The staff members there share many fond memories of their jovial and caring chaplain.

Felicia Killough, director of office operations at SouthernCare, says she saw Jackson as a dear friend.

“He was like a brother and a confidante for me,” she said. “Eric was always willing to help, and he never complained in spite of anything he was going through or whatever was going on. Eric was always happy and trying to lift up everyone else’s spirits. He helped anyone he could.”

Joann Mathews, volunteer coordinator for SouthernCare, said Jackson was “one of a kind.”

“I remember him as a big jokester who was always smiling and laughing,” she said. “He really did love everyone and helped so many people. He took good care of his family and his SouthernCare family and I am so glad I got to know him. Our office just won’t be the same without him.”

SouthernCare RN Monica Smith says Jackson will be greatly missed by all of his SouthernCare family.

“I will miss his humor and how he always made us laugh, his unselfishness to others, his kind and compassionate personality that he shared with so many of our patients,” Smith said. “Our team is forever changed since he is no longer with us.”

April Lowery, BSW, describes Jackson as a man who “led with his faith.”

“He became everyone’s friends quickly and easily, and treated everyone he encountered the same,” Lowery recalled. “Eric made me laugh a lot, but he was the perfect serious chaplain when you needed it. Bro. Eric looked out for me, made fun of me, and always pointed me to Christ. There will never be another like him.”

His fellow pastor’s selflessness and devotion to reaching the lost in his community are two of Eric Jackson’s qualities that most stand out for Bruce Coker.

“When I left Lifeline for two years to serve as a pastor in Midway, even though he did not want me to go, Eric let me know he wanted me to do what the Lord led me to do, even if it made things harder on him,” Coker explained. “Everything Eric did — serving as a deputy, as the department chaplain, hospice chaplain — yes, he did these things to help support his family. But he was also using those jobs as avenues for reaching out to people’s spiritual needs.”

Coker remembers a man who was constantly encouraging others, putting them before himself, and gently correcting those who got off-course in their life’s journey.

As for Findley, she says she found not only a supportive pastor, but a faithful friend through the tragic loss of her brother, Gene, a tow truck driver, in a roadside accident, and her efforts to get laws passed to help protect all first responders.

“Mr. Eric always took my ‘larger than life’ ideas and made them even larger,” Findley said. “He would encourage me to keep saving more lives by promoting the Alabama Move Over Law. Every time he wrote a Move Over Law ticket, he would call me to inform me of his good job. He was proud of me and knew I would be proud of him in return. He was such a big, positive influence on my late brother’s life, and he certainly became the same for me. All of us who knew him and were touched by his love, concern and generosity will never forget him.”

Ultimately, his work as a church planter and pastor was paramount to Jackson, Coker says.

“While Eric did a number of different jobs, with each and every one of them, he always looked at how it would affect the time and energy he could devote to the church before he took on that job,” Coker said. “He always put the church, and the big vision he had for Lifeline, before the other jobs.”

Coker and the church’s leadership team plan to carry on his dreams for Lifeline.

“For now, our 10 a.m. Sunday morning services will continue online via Facebook live with myself and our worship leader, Rosie Till,” he concluded. “We are definitely going to keep the vision going at Lifeline.”