James Wayne Delton Jackson,
first professor of Geology at the University of Georgia

        James Wayne Delton Jackson, also known variously as James D. Jackson and James Jackson, was a professor of Chemistry and Geology in the Franklin College (i.e., the University of Georgia) from 1823 to 1850, as well as Professor of Natural Philosophy (i.e., physics) from 1827 to 1842.  He was also a member of a famous family of Jacksons with many ties to the University of Georgia and to Georgia politics.

Jackson's family, and its ties to the University of Georgia

        James Wayne Delton Jackson was born on December 20, 1787 in Savannah.  He was the son of James Jackson (1757-1806) and Mary Charlotte Young.  James Jackson, the father, was a hero of the Revolutionary War and served under Anthony Wayne (hence the second of James Wayne Delton Jackson's four names) (Lamplugh).  James Jackson was Governor of Georgia (1788 and 1798-1801), a member from Georgia of the U.S. House of Representatives (1789-1791) and a U.S. senator from Georgia (1793-1795 and 1801-1806) (Lamplugh).   He was an early trustee of the University of Georgia (Reed, Chapter II, p.2-3/151-152).  As senator in 1795, James Jackson resigned his seat and returned home to attack the perpetrators of the Yazoo Land Fraud, a bribery scandal regarding lands claimed by the State of Georgia but in present day Alabama and Mississippi (hence the name "Yazoo").  He famously stood in front of the Georgia statehouse in Louisville and used a magnifying glass to set fire to the deeds and other papers filed in connection with the Yazoo fraud.  Throughout his career he was known for dueling and brawling, and he is remembered as " the 'colossus' of Georgia politics" of his times (Lamplugh).  Jackson County, Georgia, is named after him(Wikipedia).

        Other noteworthy members of the family of James Wayne Delton Jackson include
→ his uncle Henry Jackson (1778-1840), U.S. Charge d'Affaires to France until 1817 and Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Georgia from 1811 to 1814 and 1817 to 1828.
→ his cousin, Henry's son Henry Rootes Jackson (1820-1898), who was a U.S. district attorney, judge, minister resident (ambassador) to the court of Austria from 1854 to 1858, briefly Chancellor of the University of Georgia in 1858, a Confederate brigadier general in the U.S. Civil War, and U.S. Minister to Mexico in 1885 (VAB).
→ his brother William Henry Jackson, a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Georgia from 1822 to 1864, a long-time resident of Athens, and the homeowner who deeded the land for Athens's famous "Tree that owns itself" (Reed, Chapter II, p. 71/95).
→ his brother Jabez Young Jackson, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1835 to 1839 (Wikipedia).
→ his cousin or nephew (or possibly his son), another James Jackson (born in 1819 or 1820 and died in 1887) who was Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court from 1879 to 1887, and who was for many years a trustee of the University of Georgia (VAB; Reed Chapter IV p. 348/393).

Jackson and the University of Georgia, and its ties to his family

        James Wayne Delton Jackson entered the University of Georgia at the age of 14 in 1801, the first year that the University, as Franklin College, held classes.  He and his brother, William Henry Jackson, graduated in 1804 in the University's first graduating class.  James Wayne Delton Jackson was thus one of the first students of Josiah Meigs, and he graduated at the age of 17.  He went on to be a member of Georgia House of Representatives in 1810 and 1811, and he served in the War of 1812 as captain of the Jefferson Huzzars of the 1st cavalry of the Georgia Militia (Reed, Chapter II, p. 72/96).  Historian Thomas Walter Reed speculates that James Wayne Delton Jackson "must have entered the teaching profession about that time", but no evidence seems to be available (Reed, Chapter II, p. 72/96).

        James Wayne Delton Jackson became the University of Georgia's professor of Chemistry and Geology in 1823, the year after his brother became one of the University's trustees.  The position emerged as the professorship of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy held by his uncle Henry Jackson was divided, with Henry retaining the professorship of Natural History until 1827.  James Wayne Delton Jackson thus became the first professor of anything called "Geology" at the University of Georgia in 1823 (Reed, Chapter III, p. 33/202).

        On his appointment in 1823, James Wayne Delton Jackson was also expected to teach French on the side.  When Henry Jackson resigned the professorship of Natural History in 1827, James Wayne Delton Jackson became Professor of Chemistry, Geology, and Natural Philosophy, and he held the professorship of Natural Philosophy (i.e., physics) until 1841 or 1842.  Until 1841, the University had received an allocation of $6000 per year from the state, but that allocation was cut or eliminated that year.  As a result, the faculty was cut from six professors to four, and the responsibilities of the survivors were redistributed (Reed, Chapter IV, p. 399/445).  In this redistribution, Jackson was no longer Professor of Natural Philosophy, but he remained professor of Chemistry and Geology (or "Chemistry and Natural History").  The probability of his survival in the downsizing of 1841 may have been enhanced by the presence of his brother on the University's Board of Trustees.

        James Wayne Delton Jackson remained professor of Chemistry and Geology until 1850.  Among his students would have been Joseph LeConte (Class of 1841) and William Louis Jones (Class of 1845), the next generation of professors of geology at the University.   Reed preserved this anecdote about James Wayne Delton Jackson (Reed, Chapter III, p. 33/202):

He was greatly respected by both students and faculty members. . . . Naturally he was very fond of his father's [James Jackson's] reputation as an uncompromising foe of corrupt government, and it is said that when some student hadn't prepared his recitation and feared being called on in class, [that student] would suggest to Professor Jackson that he tell the class all about his father's taking that sun-glass on the capitol square in Louisville and drawing fire from heaven with which to destroy the papers of the Yazoo fraud.  The professor never tired of relating that story, and the class would escape further questioning on the lesson.

        At his resignation in 1850, James Wayne Delton Jackson's twenty-seven years of service constituted the longest term of service of any University of Georgia faculty member to that date. He was remembered as having "been faithful, accomodating, scholarly, [and] popular with both faculty and students" and at his retirement the Board of Trustees wished him a retirement "congenial to enjoyment and repose"(Reed, Chapter V, p. 487/541).  He died in 1857. His name, or at least that of his family, survives in Athens with Jackson Street, which passes through the University of Georgia campus.

 

 

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Sources:
Thomas Walter Reed 's History of the University of Georgia, (~1949).
The Virtual American Biographies entry on James Jackson.
George R. Lamplugh, New Georgia Encyclopedia entries on the Yazoo Land Fraud and James Jackson.


 

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