The Tug Valley area is mourning a well known figure in the community after longtime South Williamson Food City Manager Jack Blackburn passed away Tuesday, Feb. 11, at the age of 81.
Blackburn was born July 31, 1938, in South Williamson, Kentucky, to Okey and Hazel (Hatfield) Blackburn. As a young boy, he began selling newspapers to make extra money before starting his long career in the grocery business.
In 1973, Blackburn became the store manager of Piggly Wiggly, which is now known as Food City Store No. 425. He remained manager at the store for the next 40 years until he retired Dec. 31, 2012, after 56 years of service.
Throughout his lifetime “Food City Jack,” as he was known, received numerous awards for management and leadership skills in a top producing grocery business.
Blackburn will be remembered for his work ethic and his generosity to others. He was awarded the Humanitarian Award at the annual King Coal Festival in downtown Williamson.
Mingo County Magistrate Donald Sansom, who spent 34 years working with Blackburn at Food City, said Blackburn was one of a kind and loved helping out kids on both sides of the Tug Fork River.
“Jack was very committed to our youth, in both Mingo and Pike County. As far as I know, he never turned anybody down that came to him asking for help,” Sansom said. “He dedicated his life there at Food City. He was there morning to dark. ... He was always helping everybody at the store, he was dedicated to his employees and was fair. We was always just like one big family, and Jack would go out of his way to help any of us.”
Sansom said that Blackburn hired him at Food City, and he quickly became a mentor.
“Jack has helped a lot of our people. A lot of folks from around here, the first job they ever had was right there at Piggly Wiggly or Food City,” Sansom said. “A lot of those people went on to bigger and better things, but he was their first job. And he took an interest in the kids. He taught them how to work and how to be responsible. He was just like their parent there at the store. ... Jack was a good person, and he will be missed.”
Blackburn married Flossie Taylor in 1970, and they were together for 37 years. After Taylor’s passing, Blackburn married Linda (Burgett) Hatfield in December 2008.
Blackburn is survived by his wife, Linda; his brother, Ronnie; his stepson, Joey; brothers and sisters in-laws, a host of nieces and nephews; his special friend and brother in-law, Robert May; his church family at the Sharondale Church of Christ; his Food City family and friends; and his beloved pets, Max and Maggie.
Funeral services were Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Rogers Funeral Home in Belfry, Kentucky, with interment at the Taylor Cemetery.