Obituary: WKU remembers Dr. Carlton Jackson

Anna Lawson

Anyone who knew Carlton Jackson in his 53 years on the Hill can attest to the fact that he will be missed.

David Lee, dean of Potter College, will remember Jackson as a strong voice and leader.

“Carlton was larger than life in many ways, and he leaves a tremendous legacy to this university,” Lee said.

Jackson started out as a passionate journalist and also served a tour of duty in the Air Force. He came to WKU in 1961 and worked in the history department. He also published many books and earned the title of Distinguished Professor of History.

Marion Lucas, a part-time history professor, remembers Jackson’s passion for writing.

“I don’t think anybody will ever write as much as he did,” Lucas said. “I’m sure he had a topic ready to go for another book. Once he finished one, he was always looking for another topic to write about.”

Most of Jackson’s life was devoted to travel. He had been awarded four Fulbright grants to travel and had been to Pakistan and Iran, among many other places around the world.

Lucas said Jackson also had a passion for language.

“When I came in to get interviewed for the job, Daniel, his oldest son, came into Carlton’s office, and they began a German lesson,” Lucas said. “He wanted to teach his son how to speak German. Carlton was determined. He was a great linguist.”

Since that first day, Jackson and Lucas developed a great friendship.

“He, along with a group of other colleagues, would go to Mariah’s every Friday and talk about history over a few beers,” Lucas said. “I think those Friday afternoons are some of my favorite memories.”

Jackson had a reputation among his colleagues as being very hospitable and welcoming to everyone.

“He was widely respected as a scholar and writer,” Lee said. “He had a special skill with finding interesting stories and telling them in ways that highlighted their importance. He was a very social colleague who was generous with hospitality and invited his department into his home.”

While at WKU, Jackson was also the President of the Association of American University Professors.

“Once you were his friend you were his friend forever. He would help all his colleagues,” Lucas said. “He was a campus leader among the faculty. He worked to have a say in faculty governments.”

Janet Haynes, the office associate for the history department, also has fond memories of Jackson.

“He never knew a stranger, and he was always kind to everyone he met,” she said.

He currently has a book in press at the University Press of Kentucky

“Carlton was a very prolific writer who produced numerous books during his career,” Lee said.

However, he was also very engaged in his teaching and went the extra mile to provide assistance to every student.

“He brought a high standard of excellence to the department in terms of academics,” Lee said. “He was also very social and engaging, and regularly invited a large group of friends and department members to chili cookouts at his home in Butler County.

“Carlton was a very colorful classroom teacher,” Lee said. “He had been lots of different places in the world. A class with him was a very distinctive experience. He liked to give and take.”

It isn’t a secret that Jackson was a demanding teacher who expected a lot from is students, but he gave just as much back in return.

“He would tell his students that to make an A they had to teach him,” Lucas said. “He really knew his Civil War, so that was a tall order.

“He has taught and encouraged a lot of students to go on and get doctorates and really make something of themselves,” Lucas said.

Lee will remember Jackson as someone who reached out to those who were not being heard or who were neglected.

“He’ll be remembered as an excellent writer with a gift for finding fascinating stories about people or events that others had missed,” Lee said. “We aren’t just talking about some boring guy here, he accomplished so much.”

Jackson will forever be regarded as a strong leader and kind personality here on the Hill.

“His legacy is with his students, books, and teaching,” Lucas said. “That is how he will always be remembered.”