Men We Love

With Father's Day just around the corner, the Jackson Free Press has renewed its annual tradition of honoring the men we love. They are activists, news men, politicians, espresso Dadaists and rock stars. They are fathers and sons, brothers and husbands. These men we love exemplify all we adore and honor in men.

Jason Thompson
by Natalie A. Collier
Photo by Charles Smith

A good conversation can make a guy go from being a man you like to one you love. That's precisely what happened to me when I talked with Jason Thompson recently.

The first time I encountered the 25-year old founding partner of The Block Marketing—a marketing and consulting firm that got its official start in September 2006—was at a function he'd helped publicize and was emceeing.

Thompson was charming on the mic, but he would not stop talking. As we talked recently, he clued me in about his "on stage" personality.

"Sometimes, it's like I don't have control over it. The jokes just keep coming, and there's not a lot I can do about it. I just try to keep it clean," he says.

The Crystal Springs native and Ole Miss grad does more than keep it clean when it comes to his involvement with the community—he keeps it active. Aside from the marketing and consulting firm that two of his college cohorts help him operate, Thompson has a passion for producing music with a message and exposing the young people in the city of Jackson to things they may not otherwise have an opportunity to experience—like art exhibits.

"When I graduated, I didn't want to get a 'real' job. … I just wanted to be one of those people who make it from Mississippi—to show (others) that Mississippi has creative talent and intellectual people. That's not always what people think of when they think Mississippi. … I want to try to fill the voids (I see) in the city, on some level."

So far, Thompson has done an impressive job.

As our conversation wrapped up, Thompson said why he thinks people should love him. Without hesitation, he says, "Because I love people so much!"

OK, Jason, you won me over. Yes, your stand-up act lasts a tad long, but you balance it with wit, intelligence and a heart for the people. And that's another reason people should love you.

John Parker
by Caroline Lacy
Photo by Jason Jabin

John Parker could teach a man a thing or two about what it really means to be a man. He's well-rounded. His kind, generous and honorable nature make him easy to speak with, and his talent and intelligence are even more respectable.

Parker is an Army brat. Born in 1955 in Colorado Springs, Co., to an elementary school teacher mother and an Army father, he called 17 cities home at one point or another while growing up. But Jackson was unlike anywhere he'd ever been.

"Moving to Jackson was a shock because of the segregation," he says. Not one to accept the wrongs of racial segregation, the trumpet player formed an interracial band and performed for all-white crowds. When trumpet playing wasn't enough, he went on to teach himself to play guitar and the bass (which he plays now when he's gigging around town with the Arnold Lindsay Band and Time to Move).

Parker attended Mississippi State University where he earned a bachelor's degree in communications and met his wife, Peggy, whom he lovingly calls "Miss America." The couple married one week after he graduated. The newlywed then joined the Navy where he served for 20 years. Parker was in the aviation squadron, and eventually became a public affairs officer, serving as a liaison between the armed forces and newspaper and television reporters.

While serving, the officer was troubled by the behaviors at The Tailhook Convention, an annual meeting of Naval air crews. He wrote a magazine article revealing the questionable conduct of some of the attendants. Because of the potential controversy the article might spark, Parker's superior officers advised against publishing it. But Parker felt strongly that the information should not be kept quiet, so he published anyway.

After the article was published, Parker was asked to go on another 10-month tour of duty, despite the uproar the article caused. He declined and retired instead, as a commander. Because they'd moved so frequently in 20 years, Parker asked his wife where she'd like to settle. Jackson, to be closer to her family, was her response.

Parker, his wife and two sons moved to Jackson where he first worked as an apartment manager until finding a job at News Channel 16 writing commercials, and where he continues to work as an assignment editor.

Parker has many stories to tell—about starting Naval controversy, about performing with bands in Tokyo—and many lessons to teach.

Of rearing two sons, Parker says: "I try to teach my boys that whatever problems they may have, they can be solved in a good way and with a sense of humor. And I give them discipline and encouragement … and lots of headaches and sore butts," he says jokingly.

Eamonn Cottrell
by Matt Saldaña
Photo by Nate Glenn

If you've ever ordered a medium-medium at Cups in Fondren, you've probably encountered the bearded, strawberry blond and genuinely eccentric presence of Eamonn Cottrell. What you may not know about the 23-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn.—who has lived in Jackson "long enough to get stuck in the lovely city"—is that he rides a 1988 Harley-Davidson Sportster, worships the post-metal band Tool, and hosts a brilliant and hilarious podcast (a free downloadable radio show) called The FNA Show.

"It's a show about java, mochas and general population. It's a show about lava, ninjas and also space stations. I will not make sense, sometimes, be patient. I may not have a point, ever, but I really fear complacence."So says Cottrell, during Episode 13's trance-like, stand-up poetry—a cross between Bill Hicks's "Rant in E-Minor" and Gang of Four's "Entertainment!"—before scaling back the bombast: "You'd be better off sitting down and examining your fingernails."

Cottrell started podcasting last December, after stumbling upon "The Mediocore Show," which Cottrell describes as "two *ssholes just bullsh*tting for two hours. And it's funny."

He bought a Skype microphone, downloaded some free recording software, set the mic on the Cups counter one night, and recorded "two hours of bullsh*t" himself.

"Maybe one person listened to the whole thing. I doubt it. But I kind of got a feel of what wouldn't work," he says.

After seven episodes of live one-track recordings, mostly with guests, he started experimenting with the format. After some collaborators dropped off, he scripted his own monologues and added in guitar and piano parts that he wrote. The show has just reached Episode 14, which features a new co-hostess and is titled "War Against Blueteeth."

"Whether or not The FNA Show is a positive thing, I don't care," he says. "I'm creating something, and I enjoy doing that. I'm at my best when I'm creating something."

Rickey Cole
by Adam Lynch

Mississippi Policy Forum CEO and President Rickey Cole is proud of his politics. He and government go all the way back to childhood.

"My first campaign involved putting up yard signs for Cliff Finch for governor in 1975, and I've been involved in somebody's campaign ever since," Cole said. "I'm proud of being progressive."

Cole, 41, said he sauntered toward the left early, with his parents leading the way.

"My maternal grandfather was a Huey P. Long populist, and he believed that the only chance for influence for the common working man was to be engaged in the politics of government. He had a favorite saying regarding race relations: 'You ought to take people the way the Lord made them—one at a time. Don't judge them by groups, or what they look like or where they come from,'" Cole said, adding that his philosophy is linked inextricably to race. "I was raised right and taught right from wrong. It's morally unchristian to be racist."

The Mississippi Policy Forum, a non-profit dedicated to public discussion of public-policy issues, hosts discussions all over the state. Cole, who lives in both Jackson and Ovett, spent three years serving as head of the state Democratic Party, where he learned that the party was loathe to take advantage of technology and remains compromised by a puzzling habit of apologizing for its philosophy.

"We haven't run smart, high-tech campaigns. ... With us, it's always been a question of message. Many run by apologizing for being Democrats and distancing themselves from their constituents. People in Mississippi want you to be who you are and stand for what you believe. Most of the Democratic candidates haven't given people a clear choice," Cole said.

Cole explains that voters obviously think Democrats make government work because they keep voting them into local offices, even though the same voters consistently vote Republican on statewide elections. Only five out of 23 candidates running for county district attorney across the state are Republican.

"The government that is closest to the people is the government where people can clearly see things happening, and they trust Democrats as able-bodied in local offices," Cole said of voters.

Cole is running for state agriculture commissioner, an office that went Republican after incumbent Lester Spell switched parties.

"I'm a seventh-generation Mississippian, and all of them have been farmers. The first indoor job I had was chairman of the Democratic Party, and I want to be the voice for rural Mississippi," Cole said.

Charlie Johnson
by Caroline Lacy
Photo by Susan Margaret Barrett

You've probably seen him around town, strutting his way into the grocery store or showing off for his adoring fans. I don't mean Scott Albert Johnson—though Johnson is one of Jackson's more prominent musicians, he doesn't do much strutting, and he's not the one who gets mobbed by the masses. No, I mean his son Charlie Johnson.

With his unruly yet irresistible mop of curly hair, Charlie may be the most popular 21-month old Jackson has ever seen. Part of his popularity is his visibility—this is a little man who likes to go out on the town. Another part of his appeal is surely looks. He's got the hair, an ever-ready smile and the cute-times-infinity preciousness that only a toddler can pull off without getting a black eye from somebody ugly.

But it's really Charlie's budding personality that makes him a superstar. "People just love his personality, and his sense of humor, which is already forming," his dad says.

See, when Charlie comes around, you can rest assured that he'll be ready for a good time. One of his favorite hang-outs is Hal & Mal's, where he makes an appearance at his dad's gigs. This child seems meant for the musician's life, and he already plays the harmonica—though admittedly with a young man's disdain for conventional ideas about style and technique.

While most children of that age would be screaming for mommy, Charlie is willing and eager to climb up on stage and sing along, or look on with cool diffidence while dad serenades the boy with a song that was written just for him and mom.

The only dark cloud on the horizon of young Charlie's fame may be the competition that just arrived in the form of his baby brother, who was just born last week. Then again, every big man needs a sidekick, especially when that big man's just a couple feet tall.

Ed. Note: We neglected to mention that Charlie Johnson's mother is Susan Margaret Barrett. We regret the omission.

Bill Chandler
Photo by Nate Glenn

Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance President Bill Chandler, 66, is a California native who's been living in Mississippi since the 1960s.

"There's been a history of struggle here, and that's captivating to me, since I grew up with struggle," Chandler says.

Chandler, one of a minority of whites growing up in the Latino-dominated racial mishmash of urban southern California in the 1950s, is a staunch union man. Over the last 45 years, he's helped forge countless unions across the South and in California. His first union was Service Employees International Union 434, in Los Angeles. He later helped create unions focusing on farm workers, health care and hospitality workers. He also factored heavily in the organizing efforts of casino workers on the Mississippi coast, and in 2000, he formed MIRA.

Chandler's passionate pursuits don't end with his organization efforts. He is as much an idealist as he is a coalition coordinator. He anticipates a state with a blooming union presence, and predicts a massive shift toward the Democratic Party, fed, in part, by an equally massive expansion in the state's minority population. His prediction sounds outlandish in a region that regularly votes Republican on statewide elections and where many Democrats break their backs imitating conservatives. Despite the current state of politics here, Chandler is hopeful.

"When (Rep.) Robert Clark was elected as the first African American legislator elected since Reconstruction, they moved his desk so no white person would have to sit with him. … (Since then,) minorities have created quite a degree of power with rural white Democrats—who still tend to be populist economically, and in many ways socially. They have been able to build a coalition to win on things. (T)hat certainly is proven by the win we had in this recent legislative session," Chandler says, referring to 21 "very xenophobic bills" that he says the progressive coalition killed through unity.

"We killed all of them. That's a demonstration of the power Democrats have made in the last 10 years, and the demographics of the state are changing more every year. … During the time I'm here in Mississippi, I think you're going to see a huge change in things. That's why Phil Bryant is so worried. That's why Mike Lott is so worried. What's driving them is that they see the same thing coming that we do, but they're reacting to it in the opposite way."

Chandler is the father of six children, most of whom have grown up and moved on. He lives in the city with his wife, immigration attorney and chick we love, Patricia Ice.

Andrell Harris
by Adam Lynch
Photo by Jason Jarin

Jackson State University senior Andrell Harris is entrepreneurially astute. The 20-year-old business management major has already made a profit in the stock market, the housing market, and he owns his own business—Harris Vending Services—that he started with a couple of old, dusty vending machines in a friend's basement.

"I was 17. ... The first machine was a Peppermint Patty dispenser. Me and a friend cleaned it up, stocked it and put it out. We learned that year that chocolate melts if you put the machine in the wrong spot," Harris says.

Harris was also dabbling in the stock market during his high school years. He managed to get through the experience not only without taking a loss, but eager for more.

"I had a group of (similarly minded) friends. While other guys were talking about the look of a girl walking down the hallway, we'd be talking about how Google's stock went up last night," Harris says. "I was blessed because I dove in and didn't lose any money, but now I know to do a lot of research before jumping in."

Harris has also already made a dent in the city's housing market. He may not be able to legally drink liquor yet, but he's already managed to sell a house in south Jackson at more than twice the price he paid for it.

"It took me less than two weeks to sell it," Harris says. "I put about $5,000 in renovations into it, but you have to know where to put the money to make it look like you put a lot of money into it. I did the plumbing and flooring and it increased the value of the place."

Harris' business savvy has gotten him kudos in some major magazines, including Black Entrepreneur and Ebony. Despite all this, however, he says he still isn't where he wants to be.

"I want to own a franchise, like Chick-Fil-A. I want to be one of the first people buying into one right out of college, and I want to prove to others that if I can do it, they can do it, too. There's no reason they shouldn't be able to," Harris says.

Harris complains that the local media have been ignoring his accomplishments. He argues that his methods can be an inspiration to those who think the world is an impossible nut to crack.

"I can't get no love from the local media," Harris proclaims. "You guys have done me wrong."

Well, by gosh, Harris, we're giving you some serious love this week. Consider yourself planted on the JFP list of the men we adore. C'mere and give us a hug, big guy.

Previous Comments


ya'll, I say it as you've said it: HOORAY for the MEN we LOVE!!!


Egads! Who is responsible for this list of the usual suspects--kids, unknown black men, and ultraliberal white activists? Can I write a list of men I love, too? HDMatthias, MD

HDMatthias, MD

Sure, make your own list, Doc. Just be sure not to put any "unknown black men" on it. Or anything offensive. Lord.


Nice list of menfolk you got here. Kudos to them. Where else besides the JFP can you get such a diverse list of people in one article? :-) I wish them all the best in life.




Egads! Who is responsible for the above sour-grapes ideological slur on some decent people who got a mention in a light-hearted, fun article? Um, that would be one of the usual suspects: HDMatthias, MD. Dude (or dudette), RELAX. JFP and Caroline: thanks for the lovely article about my boy. My family and friends got a huge kick out of it... and so will Charlie someday!

Scott Albert Johnson


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