In the Sept. 1 Loudoun Extra, the location of the barbershop owned by Ralph Clark Jackson was incorrect. It is on Liberty Street in Leesburg, not Wirt Street. (Published 9/4/2005)
Ralph Clark Jackson, a Leesburg entrepreneur and prominent member of the black community, died Aug. 20 at Inova Loudoun Hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was 83.
Jackson was born in Round Hill. He attended Douglass High School, Leesburg's first high school for blacks, before joining the Army in 1944. During his service, he was sent to the Philippines and received training as a carpenter.
In 1947, Jackson moved to Leesburg and put his carpentry skills to use by building his two-story wooden home by hand. In 1962, he opened a barbershop on Royal Street in Leesburg.
Several years later, he opened a laundromat, and in 1971, he opened Jackson's, his second barbershop, on Wirt Street. At the time, Wirt Street was the unofficial dividing line between black Leesburg and white Leesburg, said Jackson's son-in-law, David Dixon, a barber.
Jackson's was the only black-owned barber shop in Leesburg and attracted customers from Hamilton and Purcellville. Some days there would be lines of five to 10 customers waiting for haircuts, Dixon said. Today, Jackson's has about 400 customers, and they are still predominantly black.
Jackson often served as a confidant to his customers, listening to gossip, discussing politics and religion and exchanging tips on child-rearing.
"He was a wonderful barber," said Herman Townsend, a customer and friend.
Jackson rarely divulged personal information but was always interested in learning about others.
"He knew everybody and loved the kids. He'd ask questions about your family and always say, 'You know, you look like such and such,' " Dixon said.
Dixon also remembered his father-in-law's boundless energy.
"He was always on the go. Some people said he should've slowed down, but Ralph wasn't slowing down for anybody."
In addition to managing the barbershop, Jackson tended a garden in the back yard of his home in Hamilton, to which he moved in 1972. He grew tomatoes, green beans, cabbage, carrots, squash, corn, onions and potatoes.
"People would stop by and he'd make sure they'd leave with a bag of vegetables," said his daughter Selena Jones.
His specialty was vegetable soup, made with tomatoes from his garden and cooked in a large pot so he could share it with family and friends.
Jackson also fashioned lamps, bookshelves and cradles in his free time and gave them to family and friends.
Even though he retired in 1994, Jackson continued to cut hair for family and friends. He turned his living room into a makeshift barbershop by moving in two barber chairs.
Jackson's funeral was held Wednesday at Lyles Funeral Home in Purcellville.
He was married twice, to Effi Adams in 1948 and Rose Lee Johnson in 1960. He is survived by his five children: Selena Jones of Sacramento; Ralph Jackson Jr. of Oxon Hill; Theresa Dixon of Frederick; Sheryl Johnson-Moore of Richmond; and Kimberly Crosby of Laurel.