Retired State Sen. Sampson Jackson II reflects on legislative career
Longtime local State Senator Sampson Jackson II says that he looks back on his years representing District 32 with a sense of both pride and peace.
“I look back at some of the things that we did – some of the accomplishments – and I have to say, I think we did really good,” he said. “I feel good about the time I spent there and the work I did for the people. That was always it for me – doing what I could to actually help people.”
Jackson represented District 32, which includes parts of Kemper, Lauderdale, Noxubee and Winston counties, since 1992. At the time of his resignation, he was the chair of the Senate Forestry Committee. He had previously served on a number of legislative committees, including appropriations, corrections, energy and education.
The 68-year-old resigned with 2.5 years remaining in his term after he ran unopposed in 2019. The special election to fill his seat is set for November 2.
Candidates that have qualified to run for the seat include W.J. Coleman, a former counselor at Parchman; Stan Copeland, a member of the Northwest Water Association Board of Directors; James Creer, a member of the Kemper County Board of Education; Justin Curtis Creer, a former Kemper County supervisor; Minh Duong, a Meridian optometrist; Rod Hickman, a county prosecutor with Noxubee County Justice Court; Kim Houston, a former Meridian City Councilwoman; and Keith Jackson, who is the son of Sen. Sampson Jackson II.
Jackson said that he considered resigning a few years back, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then, during the 2021 session, the longtime legislator said he started to realize he was ready for a change.
“I looked at my wife one day and said, ‘I think I might be ready to retire,” he recalled. “I never really thought about how much time I had left. I just knew I liked my job. But I started to get tired of going back and forth (to Jackson) so much.”
He said he also was motivated by learning that because he was eligible for retirement, he would make more retired than he did working.
“It just didn’t make any sense any more for me to be doing it,” he said.
Jackson said he believes he left the legislature on good terms with most, if not all, members.
“I was always someone who would work with the leadership,” he said. “I don’t disagree about something just to disagree – not if I believe that it will help someone. You have to really think about people, not just about what party is behind things.”
Jackson said he is proud of the way he consistently handled requests from voters.
“I always returned phone calls,” he said. “It didn’t matter if you voted for me or not – if you supported me or not. And doing that – returning calls and trying to help people get what they need – it led to a lot of support and a lot of confidence from people. I’m proud of that.”
Jackson, who was in office for about 28 years, said despite his efforts to reach across the political aisle, he has been disappointed at times to see how the legislature has changed.
“It used to be a lot more like a fraternity,” he said. “We might not agree and we might not be from the same party, but we looked out for each other – we talked to each other and we helped each other in any way we could. I don’t think it’s like that as much anymore.”
Jackson said social media also has changed things dramatically.
“It used to be, a vote would be made and people might not know about the vote for months,” he said. “They wouldn’t know how you voted and they wouldn’t know exactly what the vote was for a long time. Now, they know immediately, and they expect you to be able to explain immediately. I think that’s actually a really good thing for people.”
Jackson said he is proud of a number of appropriations he was able to secure for local communities, including funding for the John C. Stennis Hospital and for the Kemper Neshoba Regional Jail.
“Those were good things for people,” he said.
He also helped secure funding for a multi-purpose building used to house mental health offices in DeKalb.
He also said he is proud of his role in passing sweeping education legislation in the 1990s, when the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), was funded. Additionally, he supported and helped to pass legislation that provided teachers with additional incremental pay increases as they gained more experience.
“We still have a long way to go in education,” he said. “I wish that wasn’t true. We aren’t where we need to be, but I do believe that we have made some improvements.”
Jackson said when he first ran for office, he knew almost nothing about campaigning. But he knew he needed to make personal connections with people, and he also needed a team of people in each county willing to also provide that personal touch to voters.
“Over the years, a lot of people came to support me,” he said. “People of different backgrounds – and even people with different beliefs. They learned they could trust me and that I would do my best to do what was best for people. I might not have gotten it all right – I know I didn’t. But I am proud of what I did do.
“You have to be respectful to people – your colleagues and voters,” he said. “You have to do your best every day and you have to put the people first. You have to return everyone’s phone calls – really be there with them when they need something.”
Jackson has other involvements beyond the legislature. He is a member of C Phi C Social Fellowship Club, NAACP, Kemper County Political Black Caucus and the Farm Bureau and the Mississippi Cattleman’s Association.
He enjoys spending time with his sons – Keith, Kelvin and Sampson Jackson III. He has eight grandchildren, including six that live locally and two that live in Jackson. The family has several businesses.
“I say I am going to slow down,” he said. “And I know I will but I don’t think it’s happened just yet.”