When Mount Airy native Bill Jackson retired after working at RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company for 30 years, he had no idea that one day he would not only take up sculpting — but, it would become his passion.
Jackson, who some of his friends lovingly refer to as Billy Max, found his talent for sculpting when his late wife Mollie encouraged him to take a sculpting class while she was taking a brush strokes class at Miller Park in Winston-Salem.
“I was coerced into sculpting by my late wife. After I retired on disability, she decided that I needed something to do,” said Jackson.
He said after the third class he went over to the classroom where she was and told her that she had “created a monster.”
One of Jackson’s favorite sculptures is of his late wife. He explained that when an artist makes a larger sculpture, he first makes a “mockette” to model it after. In the case of the sculpture of his wife, the larger version was placed on a granite bench in Salem Cemetery.
Earlier this year, Jackson was honored when Kaye Myers, who was working on finding art in which to decorate the Western Governor’s Residence in Asheville, asked Jackson if he would donate the mockette he had made of his wife called “Best Friends.” He immediately agreed, and now the smaller sculpture adorns the dressing table in the governor’s bedroom.
The irony of Kaye Myers asking for one of Jackson’s sculptures for the mansion is that her aunt is the late Earlene King, local sculptor that became known for her work. For Valentine’s Day in 1992, Jackson’s wife gave him the gift of a class with King. She and Jackson became friends over the years.
“I took five classes and really enjoyed it. For her last two classes, there were too many people and I helped out,” said Jackson.
Jackson and friends Ann Vaughn and Cindy Puckett attended an artists’ reception at the mansion in June. He said the mansion was not what he envisioned. He said it was done in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. He was also surprised that it sits way up on a hill.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s not what you would expect,” said Jackson.
Due to some health problems, Jackson isn’t able to sculpt as much as he’d like these days. He still has some sculptures in process in the studio in his home. He would love to be able to teach, but his health doesn’t really allow for that now.
Over his lifetime Jackson has had a love of animals, so much so that he served on the Forsyth Animal Shelter Advisory Committee. At one time, he and his wife had seven Dalmatians and four cats. He ended up traveling all over the country with Frank and Mimi Driscol to show the dogs he bred.
He and his wife never had any children, but he does have nine god-children. He and Mollie were married three weeks short of 35 years.
He resides in the home beside the house where he grew up in on Spring Street. He said he parents had used the house he is living in now as a rental home, and he rather enjoys living there now.
He moved to Winston-Salem for 40 years while he was working at Reynolds, but now that’s he’s back home again, he said, you really can go home again.
Reach Mondee Tilley at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1930.