By Sydney Melson
The Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Erica Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
JOHNNY AND JACKSON WRIGHT
Live: Adamsville, Ala.
Married: September 24, 1977
Jackson worked for Greyhound Bus in Birmingham, and Johnny’s sister frequently rode the bus to and from Atlanta because her sister did not have a car. Every Friday evening, Johnny would go to the Greyhound bus station to pick up her sister and Jackson said he had his eyes on Johnny for a long time.
“[Johnny] didn’t believe in wearing pants like most women did, always skirts and dresses. I was admiring those big, pretty legs,” Jackson said. “And I never saw her with anyone, so I took my shot.”
One day, Jackson struck up an unconventional conversation with Johnny. “I heard someone say [my sister] wasn’t coming,” Johnny said. “And I asked why not. Jackson said the Greyhound driver called ahead and said the bus wasn’t coming, and I got nervous and upset. I thought [Jackson] knew what he was talking about,” Johnny laughed. “After he saw me get upset he said he was just teasing. We started talking and I gave him my phone number.”
Jackson said her legs weren’t the only thing that drew him to her. “She was talkative. She had a nice personality, that’s really what helped anybody with me.”
Johnny said Jackson had a wonderful smile. “He had two gold crowns on his two front teeth that shined like brass money. He’s tall, dark and handsome. And I learned a lot about his work ethic. He works harder than anyone I know,” she said.
First date: No particular first date, just lots of time spent together. Johnny and Jackson both have good memories of each other prior to getting married.
“One time, he invited me to his apartment and cooked dinner,” Johnny said. “He was really good at making spaghetti, and I was so impressed! I thought he could cook for real, but he specialized in that spaghetti,” she joked.
Johnny said he was also good to her late son, Erskine. “I had my son from a previous marriage, and my son wanted to spend some time with Jackson,” she said. “Jackson and I were going to go on a date, but he sacrificed that date for my son to spend time with him instead. I knew he was going to be a good dad,” she recalled.
Jackson said he remembers when they looked for their first house in the Bush Hills neighborhood in August of 1977. “The biggest thing was that we were buying it together. I grew up so poor that I never really thought I could get a house, especially because we were not married. I was so thankful,” he said. They lived there for about five years.
The turn: Johnny said she admired how Jackson cared for his mother. “At least twice a month, Jackson would go to Lowndes County where his mother was living to do things for her. … if he loved his mother, he’s probably going to love me,” she said.
She also talked to her dad. “My dad sat down and said, ‘you have a man who works and pays his way.’ I told my parents about how Jackson said once he earns something, he didn’t want anyone to come and repossess it. My daddy said that was a good man, and that helped me make my decision about whether or not I would marry him,” Johnny said.
Jackson admired how much of a good-natured woman Johnny was. “I said to myself, I don’t want to be single again. She’s a decent, church-going woman. She was the kind of woman I wanted as my wife, and her love for the church really drew her to me,” he said.
Proposal: June, 1977. “We had been talking about [getting married] in a roundabout manner. And one evening, he came down to where I lived at the time and proposed to me. He didn’t have a ring, so we went shopping for one after he proposed,” she said.
“I was afraid she wouldn’t say yes. I didn’t know, I didn’t feel it,” Jackson said.
“I guess that’s why he didn’t buy the ring first,” Johnny laughed.
The wedding: Officiated by the late Reverend Willie Jackson in the first house they bought and the colors were mint green and beige. “We didn’t have any furniture in the living room at that time, so the church [21st Street Baptist Church in Bessemer] I attended and played for the choir loaned us some chairs for the guests,” Johnny said.
Most memorable moment for the groom was the ceremony. “’I now pronounce you man and wife’ was my favorite moment, because I knew I had her then,” Jackson joked. “She couldn’t just get rid of me, she’d have to go through a lot of problems to get rid of me then!”
Most memorable moment for the bride was also the ceremony. “The way he looked at me like I was the only person in the world, it meant so much to me,” she said.
Johnny remembers something else that stood out. “We also had the reception in the house. One of Jackson’s friends from Lowndes County came and he was smoking a cigarette in the kitchen. He burned my wedding dress,” she said.
Words of Wisdom: “We have to continue to do things to enhance our relationship and not become complacent. Make time for each other by having date nights and do things out of the ordinary,” Johnny said. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of prayer. We also had to learn how to listen to and respect each other. We knew we had strong opinions about certain things, and even though both of us had been married before, we had to realize that we are two different individuals, and our thoughts were not always the same.”
Jackson said, “Being able to communicate with each other. I used to have a hard time listening, she’d always get on me for cutting her off before she finished. But my thing is, I couldn’t wait for her to finish because I’d forget what the question was before she was done,” Jackson said, while Johnny laughed. “We also talk about expenses, we don’t spend a certain amount of money without talking to each other about it. If you got a problem, talk it out. That’s largely what a marriage should look like and feel like,” he said.
“You have to trust each other,” Johnny added. “When I worked at American Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO), part of my job was to handle life insurance. Some of these young men would come in, and they’d come in to designate a beneficiary on their life insurance. Most of them wanted to leave the money to anybody but their wife. ‘I don’t trust her,’ they’d say.”
Johnny said she’d give them the truth. “When you asked her to marry her, did you trust her enough to go to sleep at night that she didn’t cause bodily harm to you? . . . If there is no trust, it won’t work out.”
Happily ever after: Johnny and Jackson have a blended family with five children, daughters Jennifer, 58 and Kimberly, 39, and sons Kenneth, 52, Marty 47, and their late son Erskine, who would be 47.
Johnny is from Bessemer, Ala. and attended college at Lawson State Community College and Birmingham Southern College. She retired from ACIPCO in 2011 and is an associate minister at Trinity Baptist Church in Birmingham. Jackson is from Hayneville, Ala., and retired from the city of Birmingham. He serves as a deacon at Trinity Baptist Church.
Updated on 12/31/2020 at 7:50 p.m.