One Direction Home: A History of South Jackson by Vincent J. Venturini and Doug Shanks

A Review of
One Direction Home: A History of South Jackson
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Authors paint vivid picture of often overlooked, misunderstood South Jackson

By Timothy T. Isbell
Special to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger

One Direction Home: A History of South Jackson reads like a ride down memory lane or in this instance, Terry Road. The book written by Vincent J. Venturini and Doug Shanks chronicles the history of South Jackson through its people, schools, churches, and historic events.

As a self-described history nerd, I enjoyed One Direction Home as easy to read and informative. Whether you grew up in Jackson or have never been there, Venturini and Shanks paint a picture of the area. Terry Road is a central character as the growth of south Jackson was tied to that well-traveled thoroughfare.

According to the authors, south Jackson was looked upon as an area for lower class residents of the capital city. While north Jackson was looked upon as the place to live, south Jackson had a reputation as a less progressive place.

Venturini and Shanks give an apt accounting of the area and its people. Like any local history, some parts aren’t pretty and Venturini and Shanks aren’t afraid to give an honest recounting of that history, both good and bad. This only adds to the character of south Jackson.

Of particular note, I was enthralled with the south Jackson connection to U. S. Naval hero John Paul Jones through the Mayrant family. Equally interesting, was the 130-year history of the Lester family, whose property was off Terry Road.

One story I wasn’t familiar with but enjoyed reading was the Carmelite Order purchasing a home in south Jackson for a monastery. The notion of local sixth-grade boys from Alta Woods climbing a fence to play with the nun’s dogs is refreshing. It harkens back to a simpler era.

The story about Shadow Lawn was interesting. Shadow Lawn had quite a reputation as a favorite location for parties and social gatherings. Shadow Lawn was also a preferred place for acclaimed Mississippi author Eudora Welty.

One particularly appealing chapter addressed the local personalities who called south Jackson home. This list includes Farmer Jim Neal, Woodie Assaf, Augie File, Skipper Dick Miller, William “Slew” Hester, as well as Alon and Anna Bee.

One Direction Home rang true to me, a boy born and bred in west Jackson. The book fulfills the first order of a published work: through its pages, it touches the reader.

My parents started each morning with Farmer Jim Neal and his feist dog on the radio. I remember Woodie Assaf’s weather reports. I was also one of the children that Skipper Dick Miller tried to interview at WJTV between Popeye cartoons.

I remember my mother driving my sister and me past the destruction left in the wake of the Candlestick Park tornado in March 1966. Some of my west Jackson haunts and schools (Westland Plaza and Provine High School) receive mention in the book. I also married a girl from south Jackson.

All of these memories came to mind as I read One Direction Home: A History of South Jackson. For this reason, I thank Venturini and Shanks for their book. Reading it truly brought me home again. Be sure to make this book a part of your home collection.

Timothy T. Isbell is the author of four books published by University Press of Mississippi. He was a member of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom at the Sun Herald in Biloxi and the photographer who took the world-famous Brett Favre NFL Draft Day photo.

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