Mary Lowe- Jackson always knew she wanted to be a teacher.
“I would line my dolls up on chairs and pretend to teach them,” she said with a smile. “I always had a desire to be a teacher.”
That early focus fueled a teaching career that spanned more than 35 years and brought her to Hodgenville, where her first teaching job was at the Georgetown Colored School.
Born in Franklin, Ky., she graduated from Franklin-Simpson High School in 1956, then earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Kentucky State College in 1960. She was valedictorian of her class.
“I did my student teaching in Lexington,” she said. “I liked Lexington. I had a lot of friends in Frankfort and Lexington.”
The supervisor of instruction observed her in the classroom twice, then approached her about a teaching job in the area. Lowe-Jackson liked what she heard about the position, which would begin in September, when schools in that area started the school year.
“I was looking forward to teaching in Lexington,” she said.
After graduation, she returned to her family’s home in Simpson County and shared information about the Lexington job.
“My father wanted to know if I had signed a contract,” she said. “I had not.”
She explained that teachers entered into contracts just prior to the start of the school year. Since the Lexington school wouldn’t resume classes until September, she wouldn’t have to sign an agreement until then.
In early August, she got a call from Dr. Chaney – one of her professors from the college. He told her about a job in Hodgenville he thought would be a good start for her.
Having visited Lincoln’s birthplace as a child, she was a bit familiar with the LaRue County area, but knew little about the school for black children. Her father strongly encouraged her to consider the Hodgenville position. “I told him I already had a job in Lexington,” she chuckled.
She agreed to come to Hodgenville to talk with school representatives. She and her family made the trip from Franklin to see the school and to meet with Mrs. Hamilton, the school supervisor.
“I was just going to listen,” Lowe-Jackson said. “I didn’t want to be rude. But I was going to go to Lexington.”
After meeting with Hamilton, the group went to see the Georgetown School.
“I could have cried,” Lowe-Jackson said. “I had never attended a school like that. It was wood, three rooms and had outdoor toilets. The Lexington schools were good. They had indoor plumbing.”
Classes would begin in August. Lowe-Jackson’s father encouraged her to take the firm offer to teach in Hodgenville, reminding her she did not have a signed contract with the Lexington school. Before leaving town, she had signed a contract to teach first through third grade at Georgetown. She would be paid $300 a month for the school year from early August through May.
“I thought to myself, ‘Lord, how am I going to do this?’” she said.
She rented a room from the Quinns, whose home was within walking distance of the school, and in August she began her teaching career.
She joined Bertha Rush, who taught fourth, fifth and sixth grade, and Beulah Greene, who taught seventh and eighth grade and served as the school principal.
“I had the biggest class – there were more primary students,” Lowe-Jackson said. “It didn’t take me long to fall in love with those children.”
When she started teaching, she was Miss Williams; two years later, she married and became Mrs. Lowe, although the children continued to refer to her as “Miss.” She and her husband moved to a home just down the street from the school.
Her connection to her students extended outside the classroom. After school, children waited to help her carry things home, even if it was just papers to be graded. Lowe-Jackson said it was not uncommon to find her students sitting on her porch when school was not in session.
“I fell in love with them so much,” she said of her students. “I still call them my kids.”
The feelings are reciprocated.
When former students of the school talk about their time there, they talk about the strong influence their teachers had on them And most mention “Miss Lowe.”
Parents of children at the Georgetown School were involved, which was a key element in the students’ success, Lowe-Jackson said. And the children were held accountable for their actions.
“They were respectful and polite,” she said. “Their parents were also respectful and made sure their children did as they were told to do.”
Lowe-Jackson did what she could to show her students a wider world than what they were exposed to. Each school day, a few Georgetown students were taken by bus to another area elementary school to eat lunch. The school had enticing playground equipment that her students were not permitted to use. With the help of a friend stationed at Fort Knox, she arranged a Saturday field trip to the Army post where there was playground equipment her students could thoroughly enjoy. After that initial outing, she and the parents arranged other field trips on days school was not in.
As efforts to integrate the schools moved forward in the late 1950s and ’60s, the seventh- and eighth-grade students were transferred to Hodgenville Elementary. Lowe-Jackson and Rush remained at Georgetown with their classes.
And Lowe-Jackson realized she wanted and needed more.
In August 1966, she left Georgetown, taking a teaching position with Fort Knox Community Schools, where she remained for the next 30 years.
“I hated to leave these children,” she said of the Georgetown community. “There was no place I would have been loved more or appreciated more than in Hodgenville.”
She and her husband considered moving to Radcliff to be close to Fort Knox. It made sense to move closer to post. “But I didn’t want to go,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave the connection with my kids and this community.”
In the end, she remained in Hodgenville, where she still lives.
She is married to Curtis Jackson Sr. They are parents to Crystal Jackson, Clarie Jackson and Curtis Jackson Jr.
She regularly sees and hears from her former students, both from Georgetown and Fort Knox. .
“Especially at Christmas – I get a lot of cards and I look forward to them,” she said. “I enjoy hearing how they’re doing.”
And she is so proud of “her kids” – many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers and achievements.
“Some very bright kids come out of Georgetown,” she said. “They had a desire and a goal and they achieved it.”
Looking back, she knows Hodgenville was where she was meant to be.
“It was divine intervention that I came here. It had to be God’s will.”
And whatever happened with the offer from the Lexington school?
“They did call,” she said quietly. “I was already working here when they called my family’s house (in Franklin). They did have a job for me.
“I have not regretted a minute” of being in Hodgenville, she said. “My greatest life experience was teaching at Georgetown.”