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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Morton Machine Works

SOURCE: Columbus: Georgia's Fall Line Trading Town by Joseph B. Mahan, 1986.


F.M. Morton, W.P. Sayers, and Stonewall Jackson founded Morton Machine Works in Columbus in 1925 to manufacture machinery for the textile industry. This original concept remained foremost in the company's planning and development. Drawing on the mechanical experience of Sayers and Jackson in the field of steam engines, the firm also performed repair work in this specialized field for several years. Morton Machine Works first opened in a corrugated iron shop building twenty-five feet wide and sixty feet long at 1718 Third Avenue. Willie B. Jackson, wife of Stonewall Jackson and stepmother to his children, took an active role in the enterprise and contributed valuable service as secretary and general accountant in its early stages of development. After a few years, Morton sold his interest to his partners, then Sayers retired in 1937 at which time Jackson became the sole owner, retaining the Morton Machine Works name. When their father died in 1955, Pearce E. Jackson and Harry Cook Jackson became the owners and active managers.

Following his brother's retirement from the company, Harry Jackson constructed a new plant near Blanchard Industrial Park (adjacent to Riverdale Cemetery) on a street now known as Jackson Avenue and reequipped the manufacturing facilities to achieve further development of the Morton line of textile machinery. The company added other products that relate to the fields of hydraulics and ecology. It manufactured all types of dyeing and finishing machinery for the textile industry as well as pumps, valves, and special stainless-steel fabrications used throughout the chemical, citrus, paper, and sugar industries. The firm's products were also used in other industries requiring the use of pumps, valves, and fabrications made of brass, stainless steel, and other nonferrous metals. Machinery manufactured by Morton Machine Works in Columbus was shipped throughout the world under the company brand name. The corporation had manufacturing facilities for all types of equipment and operated an engineering division that served the company's shops and provided consultant services to most industries for which it manufactured equipment. Officers of Morton Machine Works were Harry C. Jackson, chairman of the board and chief executive officer; Charles William Burgin, president; Edward J. Schwan, senior vice-president; Helen Lovein Jackson, the wife of Harry Jackson, secretary/ treasurer; Sybil K. Leindecker, controller; Charles J. Reynolds, vice-president/sales and manufacturing; H.L. Abercrombie, vice-president/ engineering; Gregory Ragan, quality-control manager; Lee Farley, project engineer; and E.L. Foster, vice-president/sales.

The organization also had a wholly owned subsidiary known as Stonewall Jackson Investment Company, of which officers and staff members were Harry C. Jackson, president; Charles W. Burgin, vice-president; Helen L. Jackson, treasurer; Jack P. Buchanan, secretary; and Patsy C. Raab, administrative assistant. Under the direction of President Burgin, Morton Machine Works developed programmable computers suitable for use in all industries. The computers could be programmed for controlling time cycles, heating and cooling, inventories, and record keeping. The firm produced a complete system of computers, including both hardware and software. One of the colorful operations in the plant was the Morton system of stock dyeing and bleaching machinery production. This equipment was designed to increase efficiency and quality and reduce labor and production costs. The company built in exclusive features for better uniformity in dyeing and manufactured controls and accessories.

Harry C. Jackson, born on July 23, 1915, attended Columbus public schools, Georgia Military College, and graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute--now Auburn University with a degree in mechanical engineering and became a registered professional engineer. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 as a second lieutenant, served overseas in Africa, England, Italy, and Sicily, and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was married to the former Helen Lovein of Columbus. They had two children, Helen (Mrs. Charles W. Burgin), and Harry Stonewall Jackson; and three grandchildren, William Jackson Burgin, Helen Lovein Burgin, and Mildred Merritt Burgin. While working at Morton Machine Works after World War II, Jackson studied law in night classes conducted by the late Superior Court Judge T. Hicks Fort and attorney Tom Sikes. He passed examinations and was admitted to the Georgia Bar Association in 1952, and qualified to practice law in federal courts although he considered law a hobby and never practiced professionally as an attorney.

Jackson ran for state senator from the Columbus district and was elected for the first time for the 1961-1962 sessions. Subsequently elected for six two-year terms, he served on many important committees, and as president pro tempore presided in the absence of the lieutenant governor for two terms. After twelve years of service as a state senator, Jackson ran for governor of Georgia in 1974 and gained wide support before losing out to the front-runners. Active in professional and civic affairs, Jackson was elected Georgia Engineer of the Year in 1971; Columbus Rotary Club president, 1970-1971; and governor of Georgia Rotary District 690 in 1973-1974. The Mason and Shriner also served as vice-chairman of the University System Committee of the Senate of Georgia. He was president of the Columbus Executives Club, president of the Parents of the Wesleyan College Council, and a member of the board of trustees of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus.

Three former Columbus Mayors (L-R): B. Ed Johnson, Harry C. Jackson, and J.R. Allen.

Jackson ran for mayor of Columbus and was elected to serve a four-year term beginning in January 1979. His strong interest in law, improving his state and city, and his belief that able businessmen should devote time to government motivated him in these years of public service. He left the office of Columbus mayor in 1983 and returned to private business on a full-time basis. In June 1985 he accepted an appointment from Governor Joe Frank Harris to serve on the Georgia Ports Authority. He would serve in this role until 1997. Harry Jackson died in 2000.

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