Eco-Pioneer Ruthe Jackson – Green Before Green was Cool
By Rita Cook
She’s the grand dame of green, locally at least, but when nonagenarian, 90-year-old Grand Prairie resident and long-time city council member Ruthe Jackson began her eco-friendly quest she was really all alone in her work to green her city. “I had a good friend, Roy Orr, county commissioner who called me and said he had a committee at the North Texas Council of Governments (COG),” Jackson remembers. “It's going to be on recycling and I'd like you to be my appointee to that committee.”
Since that time the number of awards Jackson has received, well just since she turned 80, is more than most people garner in a lifetime. After all, Jackson was green before it was cool actually coming up with the slogan ‘Sack, Trash And Recycle’ (STAR) in the 1970s. “It was so exciting because I came up with the slogan and I had little round emblems made for boys and girl scouts and youth groups and we told them if they started recycling, they could wear that patch. We went on to take it to the state and it was added to the Keep Texas Beautiful program.” Even before 1975 Jackson was already working to save the environment. In 1965 she was on the Community and Home Improvement Committee (CHIC) once even meeting President Nixon's wife, Pat.
Born in Fort Worth, Jackson moved to Grand Prairie in 1931 attending a small county school and graduating from Grand Prairie High School. During her four decades of service to the City of Grand Prairie the list of work she’s done is endless, but she believes her most important environmental accomplishments include working on the Trinity River Lone Star Trail of which she was named chairman 18 ago for the West Fork of the Trail and spearheading the Texas stone monument that now sits on the corner of Tarrant and Northeast 8th Street in Grand Prairie. The monument, shaped like the state of Texas, has each Texas County represented by a stone from that county. “This monument has a page in the almanac,” Jackson says. “When the monument started sliding off the hill my garden club raised $5,000 to anchor that sucker.” (photo: Ruthe Jackson at Trinity River Lone Star Trail)
As for Trinity River Lone Star Trail, Jackson says she’s gotten $4 million from the state for the trail project already, but she still needs another $8 million to finish. “There’s about 3/4 mile to go east in Grand Prairie,” she adds. Her environmental awards include in 1977 being the first Texan to receive the Keep America Beautiful Lady Bird Johnson Award. In 2005 she was awarded the “Robert M. Artz Award for Citizen Volunteer and Leadership Contributions by the National Recreation and Parks Association and in 2008 she was awarded the United States President’s Volunteer Service Award, which recognized her many years of beautification and voluntary service to the community. Most recently she was awarded the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Urban Forestry Program for its 2009 Texas Community Forestry Awards program.
The 2009 grand opening of The Gardens at the Ruthe Jackson Center was celebrated Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Ruthe Jackson, by releasing gold fish into the gardens pond to officially open the garden. Photo Grand Prarire Reporter. Garden Photo City of Grand Prairie
Jackson also has a building named after her recalling “It was the night of the State of the City event at Lone Star Park 10 or 12 years ago, while I was battling cancer and undergoing chemo. The mayor called and said he wanted me to offer the blessing at the event.” When she got to the event the mayor told her he didn’t really call her about the prayer, but he wanted to tell her the city was naming a conference center after her.
Jackson still lives in a warehouse with her husband, which is also home to the family business Jackson Vending Inc. There’s no shortage of green at her home either as she explains she keeps her life eco-friendly with fig bushes and a mini-garden.
“I save every bit of everything plastic, aluminum even the tin cans,” she adds. “They get picked up once a quarter and I recycle everything even the boxes, all the cardboard, and I send it off once a quarter.” In 2008 Governor Perry presented Jackson with the Governor's Texas Commission of Environmental Quality Texas Environmental Excellence Award for an Individual citing her many years of service to the City of Grand Prairie championing environmental education and conservation.
Indeed, her love of the environment does go back many years, but even before her civic work, back to when she was just a little girl. “I had to walk to school and I loved the wild flowers,” she concludes. “I loved the outdoors, I used to go fishing and I hunted with a 22 rifle and I built a garden and milked cows every day before school.”
Rita Cook is an award winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press. You can contact her at email@example.com