CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – H. James “Jim” Jackson, founder of Jackson’s International Auctioneers & Appraisers of Antiques and Fine Art passed away on Aug. 9, after a two year battle with cancer; he was 78.
In the Cedar Falls area, Jackson was known by the many different hats he wore; teacher, elementary school principal, civic and church volunteer, antique appraiser, lecturer and auctioneer. However, regardless of how one knew him, all remember his infectious and sincere smile; his wealth of freely shared knowledge and his ardent desire to assist everyone and anyone who needed help in any way.
Wisconsin antique dealer and ISA appraiser Karen Halboth, a longtime Jackson acquaintance, was quick to share, “I learned a lifetime of information about antiques and life in general from Jim simply by attending his auctions,” she said. “He was one of those rare individuals who shared his knowledge freely and would always make time to assist in identifying an item or lend a hand. His generosity was only surpassed by his honesty.”
A native Iowan, Jackson was born on his parent’s farm near Bagley, Iowa, in December of 1930. His interest in antiques was fostered by his grandmother and parents, with whom he began attending country auctions at the age of five, way back in 1935. Jackson received his B.A. in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa in 1952. After four years of teaching, Jackson and his family moved to Southern Germany (Augsburg) where he taught school for five years. He took advantage of the cultural opportunities available and traveled extensively on the continent while at the same time developing a fluency in the German language.
Upon his return to the U.S. in 1962, Jackson entered the graduate school at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, where he earned his M.A. in Educational Administration and at the same time began collecting vintage American toys. His love of teaching combined with his love of history and antiques soon found him on the Midwest lecture circuit presenting programs to a variety of cultural and civic organizations on the topic of antiques and collecting. With the arrival of summer and with school administrator duties temporarily set aside, Jim began trading in antiques to supplement his “educator’s” income. Soon his knowledge of antiques and his honest reputation caught the attention of local law firms and bank trust departments who sought him out to produce personal property appraisals primarily for probated estates. This then lead to fiduciaries asking Jackson to help sell such merchandise to which he did by holding small local on-site estate auctions beginning in 1969. Thus was the foundation laid for what would eventually become Jackson’s International.
Although it was really never his intent, Jackson’s honest and results-oriented business blossomed into a small and growing enterprise providing ample work throughout the year and eventually requiring the need of full-time employees and later on a facility.
“I really never intended or better yet envisioned it would get as big as we did, it just sort of happened,” Jackson said in a 1999 interview. By 1980 Jim and his staff (then known simply as Jackson Auction Company) conducted an average of about 40 auctions yearly, mostly consisting of smaller on-site estate auctions. And later on and with the addition of a rented facility, consignment auctions combined with on-site auctions filled the calendar. In 1993, two years prior to retiring from a 35-year career as an elementary school principal, Jackson sold the company to his son James L. Jackson, who left the vice presidency of a large advertising agency and reentered the auction world where he had worked for many years while growing up. James Jackson quickly expanded the facility and repositioned the company with a regional/national focus on higher end fine art and antiques now with peak annual sales approaching $10 million.
In a 2006 interview celebrating the firm’s 35 years of business Jim Jackson Sr. reflected, “I am amazed at how the company grew. I am also amazed at the outstanding world class roster of employees. It is no wonder they receive so many compliments and so many wonderful referrals. To be certain I was never the consummate marketer and businessman my son is, he’s the real genius. Rather my real joy came from simply being able to share a bit of obscure information about an old apple peeler or the like to a fledgling collector or dealer as I was up on the block selling – I guess that’s the teacher in me.”
Jim was a recognized leader in both the areas of antiques, auctioneering and elementary education with an emphasis on the needs of the handicapped, and he wrote and lectured extensively on both subjects.
“He was by far the most influential person in my life,” said Dr. Susan K. Sheerwood, a former teacher and professor of education at Wartburg College of Waverly, Iowa,“the personification of both a master educator and true gentleman. His likes will never be seen again.”
Outside the world of antiques and auctions Jim was known as a passionate advocate for the poor, marginalized, underprivileged and the handicapped. He was particularly interested in the rights and full participation of all children and adults with social, economic, intellectual and physical disabilities. To this end in the mid 1960s Jim served as Chairman of the Black Hawk County Community Action Council, an anti-poverty organization. He was also a member of ARC, Association for Retarded Citizens, and in 1990 received the Friend Of award from the Iowa TASH, The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps. The elder Jackson also served as a member of the Iowa Department of Educational Assistance Team for Integration. He also was past Chairman of the Iowa Association of Elementary School Principals and past member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, past Board of Directors member of Head Start and member of the Junior League Advisory Board.
In 1965, Jim received the Outstanding Citizen Award from the Civitan Club and in 1990 was named Iowa Reading Association Administrator of the Year by the Iowa Association of Elementary Educators. He was a member in good standing in a vast multitude of organizations including the National Auctioneers Association, the International Society of Appraisers, and the Appraisers Association of America to name a few. He was also an active 45-year member of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Cedar Falls where he served in many different capacities over the past 40 years. He is survived by his wife Joan of 57 years, four children and 13 grandchildren.
“For anyone who really knew my father, they know that his real legacy in life rests not in antiques, or auctioneering or even education per-se, but rather his is a legacy of love, especially for the marginalized,” said son James Jackson. “More than anything else my father felt a profound connection with the down and out, something that was fostered by his very deep and personal faith life which he was blessed in having a partner for 57 years who shared an equal passion and love of God.”