Corsicana Unveils Sculpture by Spencer Evans Honoring an Important Black Leader in the City’s History

by Lillian Michel June 4, 2023

About a century ago, there was a home on the East Side of Corsicana at the corner of South Fifth Street, between East Sixth and Eighth Avenues. There lived G. W. Jackson, an educator and civic leader who served for 45 years as the founding principal of Corsicana’s first public school for Black students. Some blocks away stood the high school that was named in his honor. A school with an exceptional reputation, Jackson High was a pillar of the historically- Black East Side community for generations.

The high school isn’t there anymore and neither is the house, but the school’s alumni never let this important part of the city’s history be forgotten. Today, at the same corner, Principal Jackson is home again.

A photograph of a bronze sculpture by Spencer Evans at the memorial park honoring the subject, G. W. Jackson.

Spencer Evans’ sculpture, “Pride of the East Side,” at the G. W. Jackson Legacy Park.

The G.W. Jackson Legacy Park opened to the public this spring at Mr. Jackson’s former homesite. The centerpiece of the park is a life-size bronze sculpture of Jackson by Houston-born artist and professor Spencer Evans.

The story behind the project to commemorate Mr. Jackson’s legacy spans 20 years and many players. It begins with Lois Jean Hart, a devoted Jackson High alumna, educator, and activist who purchased the property. After Ms. Hart’s passing, the project was moved forward by her sister, Gwen Chance, and a group of Corsicana residents working in cooperation with the city, all of them dedicated to seeing this pioneering leader receive long-overdue recognition.

A detail photograph of a sculpture by Spencer Evans of G. W. Jackson.

Spencer Evans, “Pride of the East Side,” 2020-2023, bronze.

Mr. Evans was commissioned by the G.W. Jackson Multicultural Society, and after a year of research and planning he spent the summer of 2020 in Corsicana sculpting the work. Titled Pride of the East Side, Evans’ sculpture is the first monument dedicated to a Black person in Corsicana. Seated and extending a hand to the viewer, Mr. Jackson’s active pose affirms that he is not a figure of the past, but a man whose influence endures today.

“The entire time I was there, I could feel how important this project was and a visceral sense of pride that was extended to me from the graduates of Jackson High as the one tasked with making it,” Mr. Evans says. “So to see the efforts of the G.W. Jackson Multicultural Society bring the park initiative into fruition with the help of private donors in the area was amazingly gratifying. The community’s response to the unveiling was well worth the wait.”

The statue was unveiled to a celebratory crowd at the park’s dedication on March 28, 2023. For Gwen Chance, it was an exciting and emotional day.

“I thought to myself, ‘I wished my sister, Lois Jean, was here to celebrate her dream with us,’” Ms. Chance says. “As I looked out over the crowd on the morning of the event, I was excited to see what looked like hundreds of people from all walks of life sharing in the history, and I realized my persistence and commitment had paid off when suddenly I was holding back tears and looked up and said ‘thank you, Lord.’”

“Our work was done, but also just beginning,” Ms. Chance says. “We must share our success with other communities.” The culmination of the project has preserved a chapter of Corsicana’s history, and created space for new chapters to begin. For generations more, Principal Jackson’s life and work can continue to inspire.

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