Mrs. Ruth Jackson – known to her family, friends and country music fans the world over simply as “Mama Ruth” – died Saturday morning, January 7, peacefully at her home in Newnan, Georgia. Mrs. Jackson became a celebrated part of son Alan Jackson’s career and life story as the inspiration behind some of his fans’ favorite music. Mama Ruth was 86.
Born April 2, 1930 in Lowell, Georgia, Mama Ruth at the young age of 16 married the love of her life, Joseph Eugene “Daddy Gene” Jackson, in 1946. Their marriage was blessed by five children – daughters Diane, Cathy, Carol, Connie and son Alan. Mama Ruth is survived by all, as well as by 12 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. Her beloved husband Eugene passed 17 years ago, in January of 2000.
Childhood memories of his mother have factored into many of Alan Jackson’s songs over the years. It was Mama Ruth who inspired Jackson’s Precious Memories, a collection of gospel hymns that was originally created as a Mother’s Day gift to her with no intention of ever being made into a commercial release. Jackson’s second Christmas album, Let It Be Christmas, was also inspired by Mama Ruth’s desire and request to hear her son record some of the holiday’s traditional classics. Alan also told the story of his parents’ early years as a couple in “Home,” describing their house built around an old tool shed…the place Mama Ruth called home for 70 years until the day she died.
“My mama raised five children – four girls, and there was me.
She found her strength in faith in God and a love of family.
She never had a social life; home was all she knew
Except the time she took a job to pay a bill or two.”
(Lyrics from “Home,” by Alan Jackson)
More than 20 years later, those words still describe Mama Ruth as perfectly as they did the first time he shared them with us. Jackson’s frequent references to her and her occasional appearance at awards shows and events made Mama Ruth a beloved figure to Jackson’s fans. It was a role she embraced, greeting those who frequently sought out her son’s childhood home, inviting them to take a photo on the front porch or offering them a glass of iced tea as she would any guest in her home.