Jackson Center Staff Reflects On Roberts Visit

The staff at the Robert H. Jackson Center have been working frenziedly preparing for Chief Justice John Roberts’ visit.

After all the work that was done preparing for the visit, staff members were finally able to relax and also enjoy the chief justice’s speech Friday morning.

James Johnson, president and chief executive officer for the Jackson Center, said it was an honor to meet the chief justice, the highest judicial figure in the United States.

“For him to take the time to come to Jamestown shows the appreciation he has for what we are trying to do here,” he said.

Johnson, who started working at the center last year, said it is difficult to pinpoint what he will remember most fondly years from now about Roberts’ visit.

“It is difficult to acknowledge just one moment,” he said.

Johnson said he enjoyed preparing the educational aspect of the ceremony, which included nearly 2,000 area school students attending the speech.

“We’re trying to provide the best educational experience we can,” he said.

Debra Pacos, Jackson Center development director, echoed Johnson’s sentiment that the educational part of the visit by the school students is very memorable.

“All the schools made an effort to get here,” she said. “That is what the Jackson Center is geared toward – education.”

Pacos, who too started working at the center last year, said it was a pleasure to meet Roberts, who she described as a very low-key man.

“He didn’t want any special treatment. (Thursday) night when we had the dinner, he acted just like any other guest we’ve had for dinners,” she said.

Pacos said the beautiful weather added to the enjoyment of Friday’s ceremony.

“It has been so many months of preparation for this day, and for this day to finally arrive, I don’t think it could have been any better,” she said.

Greg Peterson, Jackson Center co-founder and board member, said when Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist visited 10 years ago, the weather was quite different.

“The weather, last time, it wasn’t a rainout, but it was very damp,” he said. “To look at the sun today and bask in it was enjoyable.”

Peterson said he will remember Roberts’ gracious presence the most.

“He is an incredibly engaging individual,” he said. “He was more than gracious, and really appreciated meeting the Jackson family.”

Roberts is part of a Jackson judicial lineage. The chief justice clerked for Rehnquist, who was a clerk for Jackson.

“Chief Justice Rehnquist directly worked for Justice Jackson, and he was more than willing to share his knowledge of Justice Jackson with us,” Peterson said.

When asked to prepare the two chief justices who have visited Jamestown in the last 10 years, Peterson said they both have their own demeanor.

“Both men came here at different ages in time. Chief Justice Roberts is younger, and has more of political background, so he is more comfortable in a crowd,” he said. “Chief Justice Rehnquist was older when he visited so he was not as available to people, through no fault of his own.”

Carol Drake, Jackson Center officer manager, joined the staff at the Jackson Center a couple months following Rehnquist’s visit, so Roberts’ visit was the first time she had the chance to meet a chief justice. She said the crowd that gathered along the corners of Fourth Street and Prendergast Avenue was what she will remember the most from the visit.

“I think the energy of the crowd was fantastic,” she said. “All the students here they were very energetic.”