MYRTLE BEACH, SC – Mary Emily and Nelson Jackson, founders of The Jackson Companies, were awarded South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto on Thursday, February 26, 2004. They are known for their leadership in the campground and tourism industries, as well as their support of the Grand Strand Community.
A surprise birthday party was planned by family and staff to celebrate Nelson’s 84th birthday, even though secrets and surprises are nearly an impossibility when it comes to Nelson Jackson. The birthday party was more of a decoy to hide the real surprise awaiting both Nelson, and his wife of 61 years, Mary Emily. With more than 90 guests, The Jackson Companies CEO, Dennis Wade, wished Nelson a happy birthday. Wade explained that there was a very special gift for him, but that he would have to share it with Mary Emily.
South Carolina Representative, Thomas Keegan, R-Surfside Beach presented The Order of the Palmetto on behalf of Governor Mark Sanford. “This award has been bestowed upon you for your exceptional dedicated service to the Palmetto State,” read Rep. Keegan from Gov. Sanford’s letter. “As outstanding civic and business leaders, you have helped improve the quality of life for the entire Myrtle Beach community. You are known as tireless ambassadors for South Carolina and are long-time promoters of the Grand Strand as an outstanding vacation spot. The Jackson Companies has been an integral part of the business community in Myrtle Beach and Horry County for many years, and has been certified a Gold Seal Family Friendly Business because it promotes the health and well-being of its employees and emphasizes the need for more balance in work and family matters,” Keegan continued. “As recipients of many business, civic and personal awards recognizing your tremendous work and philanthropy, you inspire other to serve because you lead not by word but by example.”
After a standing ovation, Nelson and Mary Emily took the podium. “Why am I here? Because you’ve helped me live 84 years, and you’ve pushed me and Mary Emily to this height,” Nelson explained. “Without each one of you, we couldn’t have gotten here. Thank you.” Mary Emily, with Nelson at her side, smiled and commented on the growth of the Myrtle Beach Area, “It’s been a privilege for me to watch this area grow for 82 years. It’s been so wonderful, I like to see the growth. Some people come here and say, â€˜it’s just wonderful how it is, keep it that way.’ I don’t believe that, I think we should keep on going. There’s no telling what this area is going to be in another 82 years!”