Memory of revered public servant lives on in Picayune

Published 7:00 am Friday, June 12, 2015

Jack Read poses with his family at the dedication of Jack Read Park in October 1991.

Jack Read poses with his family at the dedication of Jack Read Park in October 1991.

Andrew Jackson Read was one of Picayune’s greatest public servants for more than 30 years.
Read was born in Pachuta, Mississippi in 1907, and came to Picayune when he was 2 years old. Read attended Picayune Middle and High School and was quarterback of the 1925 state championship football team.
Read went on to study at Pearl River Junior College, where he again was the quarterback on a state championship team.
In 1929, Read became paymaster for the Goodyear Yellow Pine Company where he remained until 1932.
Read was appointed city clerk and tax assessor in 1933. At that time, Picayune had only two paved streets, Canal Street and Highway 11, according to a publication of the Picayune Item from October 1987.
The magazine states that Read is solely responsible for the creation of Picayune’s natural gas system.
In 1937, Read presented the mayor and the Board of Aldermen with a plan to install a city owned natural gas system throughout Picayune. Up to that point, wood was the fuel of choice. However the supply of timber was quickly being depleted due to the cutting down of trees without replacing them, which was resulting in the closing of the areas wood mills.
At first, Read’s idea was met with resistance, but three years later after the cost of wood was at an all time high the city issued $220,000 in bonds to finance the project, the magazine stated.
Construction began in 1941 on an 18-mile long transmission line that ran across the Pearl River swamp into the city’s main station.
In 1946, Read was voted citizen of the year. He stepped down as city clerk in 1953, according to the Item’s magazine.
Read became Picayune’s first city manager in 1954 at a starting salary of $10,000 a year. That same year, Read was presented with the Junior Chamber of Commerce Award.
In 1969, Read was awarded boss of the year.
Read retired from public service in 1972 at the age of 65. When Read stepped down as city manager, all accounts had been paid off, said Read’s daughter Gerry Samples.
“He was the most ethical man I’ve ever known,” said Samples.
It is clear, in a thank you note written by Read to the city of Picayune at the time of his retirement how much he enjoyed his job.
“We have a wonderful city, it is that way because of the close cooperation between the citizens and the people in City Hall both elective and appointive,” said Read in the letter.
Growing up, Samples said she and her siblings were always aware of what was going on in their city.
“The city of Picayune was like a member of my family, it was a part of who we were,” said Samples.
Read passed away in 1992, but not before he was able to share in the dedication of Jack Read Park in October 1991.
Samples has immense respect for her father and who he was as a person.
“I keep a photo of him on my desk to inspire me,” said Samples.
Read’s body of work still lives on in the city of Picayune, said Samples.
“I still have people come up and tell me how much he did for them,” said Samples.

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