The above photo, which includes the late Walter Jackson and my confidential executive assistant Charmela Freeman, shows Walter's spirit in its essence. Pure love, engagement, calmness, and joy.
As for words, what do you really say when words can't quite do it? You say what you can, and hope that everyone understands that no words were really ever appropriate for the moment.
Such is the case here, in talking about the sudden and shocking passing of one Walter Jackson.
Walter Jackson served as the founding vice president and director of the flagship HOPE Inside at Ebenezer, which now serves as the national flagship for the growing HOPE Inside Member Network.
Which means that everything we are now doing and achieving at locations both across Atlanta, and across the nation, are in many ways modeled after what Walter achieved in the first couple years at HOPE Inside at Ebenezer.
But well beyond his work ethic, or his leadership model amongst employees, or his innovation and results as a HOPE Leader, Walter Jackson was an extended member of our family. When my wife heard about the passing of Walter, she immediately broke down and cried. Hard. We had just seem Walter this week, in our home, and we were as comfortable with him as we believe he was with us. Extended family, not just an employee of Operation HOPE.
Anyone who knew Walter Jackson immediately connected to his soul, because it was the first thing you felt. His authenticity, his sincerity. His care, his love, and his genuine concern for others. And talk about a model African-American male.
He was a great father, having just finished spending quality time with his children on yesterday, right before this tragedy took him from us. And he was the very embodiment of the phrase, "let's make smart sexy again." He walked it, lived it, and believed it. And because he believed it, so did everyone else around him. That includes me.
And one of his dearest friends, SirJames Buchanan, who happens to also be my personal assistant, would tell you that he was a terrific friend and brother. When I got the call from SirJames about the loss, I felt as if something tragic had happened to SirJames himself. And spiritually, it had.
We will all find a way to get through this tragedy, and we will surely celebrate Walter Jackson's amazing life. But we will also double down on our work — the work that Walter Jackson had dedicated his life to – making sure that Walter lived for both a purpose, and a reason.
We will not stop until we are sure we have exceeded the bold expectations he had for all of us; including this work and our movement.
And so, let us all shed a tear, but more so, let us reset our expectations and our high aim, and make Walter Jackson's life a living legacy. One that we never forget.
Onward Walter Jackson. Onward. You have just become our greatest inspiration sir.
In the meantime, we will dearly miss you friend.
John Hope Bryant