The History of Human Resources in Jackson, Tennessee.
By Janice Shipman, SPHR
The human resources group in Jackson, Tennessee has a long, rich history. I moved to Jackson in 1983 from Modesto, California. I was working as the “Personnel Manager” at Goldsmith’s department store. I thought it would be good to network with other human resources professionals so I joined the local ASPA (American Society of Personnel Associate) that met monthly in the area. ASPA covered all of West Tennessee including Dyersburg, Lexington, Milan, Adamsville, Humboldt, Brownsville, and even Dover. We would meet at night at local restaurants rotating to The Thunderbird restaurant, the Catfish Cabin, the Hut, Corky’s and Epics which even let you have wine there if you paid them a set up fee. Since there was no “liquor by the drink” in Jackson, the treasurer would schlep the cardboard box of booze from meeting to meeting so the members could have liquor. Some of the people I remember back then in attendance were Pete Rowland, Phil Hardage, Bill Kipp, Steve Simon, Larry Dooley, Terry Poteete, Jim Grubbs, Dan Spencer, Janice Page Hollingsworth, Kent Frisbee, Vic Buccholz, Tom Bullock, Jerry Taylor, Jim Phillips, Dovie Taylor, Gene Burden, and more.
Through the end of the 80’s, the ASPA Corporate required an increased amount of dues funds to be sent to the corporate office in the Washington D.C. area. ASPA was transitioning their name from ASPA to SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) so being good southern rebels, the group decided to disassociate with ASPA and form their own local HR group where all the dues would stay right here in West Tennessee. So the group formed the West Tennessee Personnel Association (WTPA). James Welch, Larry Dooley, Jim Horan, Jeff Autry, Charles Kent, Andy Deakins, Brian Collins, and several of us were part of the momentous “succession from the union”. We met monthly mostly at night and through the community until we began meeting regular at the hotel which is now the Double Tree. Liquor by the Drink came up for vote and won so we no longer had to carry the booze from meeting o meeting. About this time it also became politically incorrect to drink as much at these meetings so many of our members went to the bar and brought their drinks back to the meeting. We now had more attendees such as Bob Murray, Henry Smith, Jeff Thomas, C.J. Brown, Shirley De Franco Simmons, Curt Hall, Bart Freeman, Donna Butler, Brenda Ferguson, Murley Henson, Dennis Kee, Nancy Taylor, Pat Lunsford,
In the mid 80’s I studied and traveled to Memphis to take my PHR certification class at Memphis state. I think I was the only person in the Jackson area for several years with a PHR. Dennis Kee was the only SPHR we knew of for several years. Now we have many, many colleagues that are PHR or SPHR certified.
West Tennessee Personnel Association was well on its way. We hosted Mildred Ramsey union busting seminar for managers and supervisors in the mid 90’s. This was a wildly successful seminar which earned a large sum of money for the chapter. After that the WTPA formed a scholarship fund for seniors in high school that graduated locally who were going to college seeking a degree in human resources. Back then we also had a college group of students that were a SHRM chapter at UT Martin, Tennessee headed up by Dr. Overby. The WTPA would try to have seminars for supervisors about every other year to include union avoidance and current events in legislation and legal updates. The WTPA was steep in tradition. We had a very formal meeting and mostly did round robin sessions to see what was going on in each other’s location. Back in the day there was more union organizing and union activity and we were always alert to what was happening. Every year when we elected new officers it was always tradition for Jim Horan from Haywood Element to swear in each officer one by one. I remember taking over as treasurer for someone who left the community mid year. They allowed me to continue on the next year and I got officially sworn in by Jim. What an honor. I went on to serve eventually as vice-president two times and president once. It has been a pleasure being associated with this group and the profession we serve.
Through the years WTPA has held in there through thick and thin. At first formation we had over 95 members, and through the years the membership would shrink and gain. Also, as the years progressed, it was clear the name of the group no longer served the human resource community as the word “personnel” was no longer a title used in our profession.
In 2007, WTPA was approached by SHRM as well as current SHRM members were inquiring about how the group could morph back into the fold of the Society of Human Resource Management. Claudette Bujould Poirier led the charge as then president to help get us re-aligned with SHRM. Through hers and several other members’ leadership the West Tennessee SHRM group is strong and growing. We now meet monthly during the day at Premier Catering where we have been working hard to grow the membership, provide meaningful programs complete with pre-approved certification credits for members who are PHR or SPHR so they can get their re-certification credits. The succeeding Executive Boards have worked hard to continue to strengthen the chapter presence in West Tennessee. We have come a long way baby!