Jimbo Jackson, who served 30 years as a teacher and principal at the Fort Braden school and nearly six years as Leon County commissioner, died Saturday morning after suffering long-term complications from COVID .

He was 55 years old.

“We’re just devastated,” Leon County Administrator Vince Long said. “Jimbo has truly made everything and everyone better. And we’re just saddened and heartbroken – and more than anything else, we’re just devastated for his family.”

Jackson, 55, joined the staff of the Fort Braden School in 1992, holding a multitude of jobs there over the years, from teacher’s aide and class instructor to dean of students and principal. In 2016, he won a seat on the County Commission which was held by the late Jane Sauls.

Fort Braden School Principal Jimbo Jackson is running for Leon County District 2 commissioner

“He just had incredible empathy,” Long said. “And I think that comes from his many years of experience as a principal of a title 1 school. He saw it all first hand, the struggles that people face. And he had the very unique perspective of to see him play from generation to generation, because he taught and was a director for the children and their parents and their uncles and their aunts.”

Jackson was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the summer of 2020 and suffered long-term health complications from the disease.

He brought the steady hand of an educator to his role as county commissioner. Stoically gentle, he often became the voice of reason in tense discussions and had a knack for ending them by bringing motions to the table.

Jackson said before his death that he was guided by what he felt was best for his district, a rural part of southwest Leon County often overlooked in economic development projects.

Allie Jackson kisses her father, Jimbo Jackson, on Wednesday.  Fort Braden School Principal Jimbo Jackson was named Tallahassee Democratic Person of the Year in a surprise ceremony at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Tallahassee Democratic Editor-in-Chief Bob Gabordi, made the announcement with school superintendent Jackie Pons at his side.

Leon County Commission Chairman Bill Proctor called Jackson “a valued colleague, educator, friend and true leader” in a press release.

“Throughout his tenure on this commission, as he has his entire life, Jimbo fought tirelessly for this community and especially his district,” Proctor said. “Our county family shares the immense loss of such a talented individual with the schools in Leon County and everyone at the school in Fort Braden. Our hearts go out to everyone who knew Jimbo so well, and in especially to the Jackson family during this difficult time.”

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey was heartbroken and devastated by the loss of his friend. He said he had the good fortune to visit Jackson for about an hour over the past week.

“I will cherish this moment,” Dailey said. “Jimbo was a true friend of mine. Wonderful gentleman. Incredible statesman. Brilliant principal. The true definition of a family man. This community has lost a true leader.

In 2014, Jackson was selected as Tallahassee’s Democratic Person of the Year because of his dedication to education, especially in his district, and his belief that it can uplift an entire community.

“Mr. Jackson is also an example to the young boys and girls who reside in this rural but developing part of our county,” the Editorial Board wrote at the time.

The board pointed to the lifelong educators’ own words as evidence.

“You have to make meaningful connections, develop relationships, and nurture those relationships,” he told the Democrat in 2014. “You have to understand where people are coming from, appreciate them, and show them you appreciate them.”

Jackson was first elected in 2016, placing first in an eight-person primary and winning the general election with 63% of the vote. He ran unopposed in 2020.

News of Jackson’s death stunned the community, from elected officials to his colleagues at Fort Braden, a kindergarten to eighth grade school that dates back to 1847.

“Loved working with him over the years,” State Rep. Alison Tant, D-Tallahassee, said on Twitter. “I feel sick.”

Jackson is survived by his wife, Beth, and two daughters.

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Contact Karl Etters at [email protected] or @KarlEtters on Twitter.

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