When the phone rang, I was unpacking my bag at a local hotel on a Sunday afternoon. I was set to start my new job as the editor of the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville the next day.
“Hi Ross. This is Chuck Jordan.”
Chuck, then the president of Planters Bank in Greenville, was calling to invite me to dinner at Lillo’s Restaurant in Leland with his long-time friend and Greenville businessman Benji Nelkin.
He wanted to welcome me to town and give a good first impression of Greenville and the people and business community of Greenville.
And when my family was able to move to town a couple of weeks later, he hosted a dinner at his home with a few people he thought we would enjoy meeting. As it turns out, we met some of our best friends there.
We weren’t particularly special. Although Chuck has made a point over the years to try and make everyone who moves to town feel special and welcome and a part of a greater community.
All Chuck Jordan has ever wanted is for Greenville to succeed. And he put his money where his mouth was last winter. After retiring from a 30-year-career with Planter’s Bank, he ran for and won the job of mayor in a landslide vote as people of all races put their faith in him to turn around the fortunes of the once-great political, business and literary hub of Mississippi.
While he is succeeding in that role, Chuck has hit a bump in the road.
He has advanced-stage pancreatic cancer and has announced he is stepping down immediately as mayor.
There will be a new election in 30 days.
So, in the face of what has been described as terminal, Jordan’s main focus since he learned of his disease is to make sure Greenville is in good hands for the future.
It’s been a tough year for the Jordan family already as his daughter Liza, after many months of treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, died from complications of breast cancer.
His family doesn’t deserve this. It is a tough time.
Greenville doesn’t deserve this. It is another blow to a city that seems to have had nothing but bad luck for the past 50 years.
But don’t tell that to Jordan.
“This is all about attitude,” he says. “This isn’t about me. This is what people have been talking about for a long time.
“The people of Greenville have a vision of what they want for the future of this city and that is why I was elected. They all will see Greenville through in the future.”
That is totally consistent with the message he has always believed in.
During my family’s years in Greenville, he never missed an opportunity to pitch the city in the best possible light.
I can’t say that Chuck and I have always seen eye to eye on everything. In fact, we have had a couple of good battles about a few issues.
Yet, no one will ever be able to cast doubt on whether Chuck has always had the best intentions at heart for Greenville and all of the Mississippi Delta. He unapologeticly wears his heart on his sleeve and believes deep in his soul that Greenville will be back on top like it once famously was.
This week, he even recounted the famous speech of former New York Yankees star Lou Gherig, who, while battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, told fans, “… for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”
“That’s exactly how I feel about living in Greenville and the people of Greenville,” Jordan said. “You just can’t beat it.”
A native of Yazoo City in the Delta, Jordan originally leaned toward a legal career, earning a B.A. (pre-law) from Mississippi State.
However, Jordan soon married, and family responsibilities brought a career move to banking. Jordan began his banking career in Greenville, relocated to Columbus before returning to Greenville and Planters Bank..
There’s no question his agenda has always been an ambitious one, both in the banking profession or as a first-time politician.
And as such, Jordan knew he would be under scrutiny as he attempted to implement his plans as Mayor of Greenville. Earlier this year, he told the MBJ he welcomed the scrutiny.
“Hold my feet to the fire,” Jordan said at the time. “Come to Greenville in six months and see the progress we’ve made. I welcome it.”
Well, Jordan was right. He has made progress. He has continued to make progress in a lifetime of achievement that Greenville and the people who live there will forever benefit from.
Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1018