‘Labor Of Love’

Local Author Kathleen Evans Publishes Book On Jackson Center’s History

Kathleen Evans of Lakewood recently published “The History of the Robert H. Jackson Center: From Grassroots to Global Recognition, 2000-2015,” which gives a historical recounting of the formation and establishment of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown. Submitted photo

Although firmly entrenched among the most notable figures to emerge from the greater Jamestown area, how exactly did the legacy of Robert H. Jackson become so ingrained with the local culture?

This is what Lakewood author Kathleen Evans determined to convey with the publication of her most recent book, “The History of the Robert H. Jackson Center: From Grassroots to Global Recognition, 2000-2015.”

The book was released this year following four years of cumulative research and personal interviews conducted primarily by Evans herself, and thankfully assisted by the support of those who masterminded the establishment of the book’s focal institution. While an experienced author in her own right, due largely to her partnership with fellow local author Jane Currie, with whom she previously published five other local historical books via Arcadia Publishing, Evans said working on this particular book proved to be quite a task.

“This was a real challenge, but it’s one that I welcomed,” Evans said. “I couldn’t tell you how many hours I put into it over the past four years, but I can definitely say that it was a labor of love. I was flattered to have been given the assignment, and the fact that I was given a lot of latitude was key to helping me complete it.”

Indeed, Evans was selected by local attorney Greg Peterson, who also co-founded the Jackson Center, largely due to her previous involvement with the center in various capacities and for her writing prowess. She said the impetus for the book came in 2013, when it was decided jointly by the Jackson Center and the Chautauqua Community Region Foundation that a historical account of the Jackson Center should be written to accompany Gail Jarrow’s 2008 biography of Jackson himself, entitled “Robert H. Jackson: New Deal Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice, Nuremberg Prosecutor.”

To assist with her efforts to provide a chronological recounting of the events leading to the center’s establishment, Peterson provided Evans with 15 large binders — each representing a year — along with a notebook written by Daniel Bratton, former Chautauqua Institution president and first executive director of the Jackson Center.

“Just as Greg told me of (fellow Jackson Center co-founder) Carl Cappa’s fear that Jackson’s story and legacy would be relegated to the ‘dustbin of history’ were it not preserved, I think he was also afraid that the Jackson Center’s story would meet the same fate,” Evans said. “And so, with the notion that this new book should serve as a companion to Jarrow’s book, the Community Foundation gave the Jackson Center a grant in 2013 specifically for me to write it. I had these 16 binders and notebooks and was told to ‘go for it.'”

Evans’ book tells the story of the Jackson Center development from a locally manufactured concept to a physical location with ties to affairs domestic, global and international. Citing a handful of local players crucial to getting the Jackson Center off the ground — including Peterson, Carl Cappa, Betty Lenna, Lillian Ney, Randy Sweeney, John D. Hamilton, Philip Morris, Stanley and Sarita Weeks and others — Evans said the crux of her book rests on the efforts and abilities of local individuals who dared to dream big and and acted accordingly.

“All of this was achieved because of the vision, evolution and creation of these local people — all of whom received their higher education outside of the area but returned to their roots to make something great,” Evans said. “I wanted to reflect the importance behind this nucleus of people who stepped up to the plate and lent their support within their respective fields.”

“The History of the Robert H. Jackson Center: From Grassroots to Global Recognition, 2000-2015” can be purchased from the Robert H. Jackson Center, 305 E. Fourth St. in Jamestown, or from the Chautauqua Bookstore, 67 Bestor Plaza in Chautauqua Institution.