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|Winnsboro mayor will be missed|
Winnsboro Mayor Jack Hammons, who passed away Friday after a brief battle with cancer, will be remembered as a soft spoken, unassuming man who did much for the city he loved.
Hammons, 73, was born in Winnfield on Valentines Day 1937 and moved with his family to Winnsboro when he was 10-years-old.
Soon after, he took his first job as a paperboy for The Franklin Sun.
With an infectious smile and warm personality, Hammons grew to be a fixture in Winnsboro working at Kiper's Grocery and at Scott-Corbett Drug Store in downtown Winnsboro as a teenager.
In 1965, Hammons opened a grocery store, often allowing customers to pay on credit. He earned a reputation as an honest, hard working man who cared much for the community he served.
Friends and colleagues of the mayor describe him as a man who helped shape Winnsboro over the last few decades, becoming as much a part of the landscape as the flags that adorn its streets.
Many flags in Winnsboro, including the giant Stars and Stripes in the center of town, remain at half-mast following the mayor's death.
The city lost a lot when it lost Hammons, said Franklin Parish Tax Assessor Rod Elrod, a life-long friend.
"This is a tragedy for the Hammons family and a tragedy for the city of Winnsboro," he said.
Elrod said he received a call early Friday from Hammons' daughter, Paula, with the news that the mayor had passed away. The call left him "broken hearted," Elrod said.
"There was not anybody in Winnsboro better known than Jack," he said. "Everyone knew him and everyone liked him."
Hammons further established himself as a small businessman in Winnsboro with ventures including gas stations and a video movie rental store.
He was known as a person who went the extra mile for patrons, an attribute that served him well later in public officials.
"I'm sad about what happened to Mr. Jack. It's a sad loss for the community and for my family, personally. He was a wonderful mayor and an even better man," said Paul Gravelle of LS & JM Gravelle Inc., a longtime business associate and friend of Hammons.
Hammons was also a dedicated family man and he and his wife of 52 years, Bobbie, reared three daughters, Paula, Rhonda, and Sandra in Winnsboro.
"Their love for each other was obvious, a and all you had to do was spend a little time around them to know that. They were an unbeatable team together, and that loving bond lasted 52 wonderful years," said Paul Price Jr., a longtime friend of Hammons who delivered a eulogy to him at his funeral Monday at Templle Baptist Church.
In 1990, Hammons ran for a seat on the Winnsboro Board of Alderman, and served for eight years before being elected mayor in 1998.
Former Winnsboro Mayor Billy Cobb, said he respected Hammons work as alderman and always considered him a friend, even after he ran against him and won his seat.
"There is no doubt about it. Jack has left a legacy that is a panoramic view of Winnsboro," Cobb said. "His family and our community will always look back and be proud of his accomplishments."
Some of those accomplishments include spearheading several projects to improve Winnsboro's infrastructure.
Under Hammons, the city water system underwent a $3.8 million upgrade, a $2 million sewer rehabilitation project was completed, downtown was illuminated with new lighting, and new sidewalks laid on Havard Street.
Hammons was also instrumental in the passing of a 10 year, 1/2 cent sales tax for street improvements, the purchase of the old post office for use as a museum with office buildings and the old McLemore Jitney Jungle building for use as a community center.
Winnsboro recreation also got a boost from Hammond's stint as mayor with projects that included the formation of Terry Wallace Memorial Park and improvements to the ball fields at Westside Park
Serving with Hammons as mayor always meant meetings would be efficient and congenial, said Winnsboro Alderman Craig Gill.
"His ability to connect with people regardless of their race or beliefs was his greatest quality," he said.
Hammons reach stretched far beyond Winnsboro and Gill said he was often asked about the mayor in his trips to Washington, where he serves on a national board of morticians.
"He was well known in the state of Louisiana and I would say, throughout the nation," Gill said.
Hammons was a mayor to all the people of Winnsboro regardless of race, said Rev. Herman Harris.
"He was a community man," Harris said. "He was a person you could meet at the gas pump and just talk with."
Hammons had planned to run for a fourth term, but withdrew after discovering he had terminal cancer just days before he was to qualify for election.
In a letter to the people of Winnsboro printed in The Franklin Sun announcing he was withdrawing from the race, Hammons wrote:
"As I bow out of public life, I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to my many friends who have made the last 12 years such a wonderful experience for me and my family,"
adding, "The kindness you have shown has been overwhelming, and has made this chapter in my life such a great experience."
Alderman Rex McCarthy is currently serving as Winnsboro's mayor pro tem.