Just how does Bob Ridgway, president of Ridgway Realty Inc., do it all? Even he is not sure. When interviewed for this article, he took time to reflect on his 40-plus years of experience in real estate and civic activities in Jackson, even though he was busy preparing to go visit a new grandson in South Africa.
“Life in the fast lane just doesn’t quit,” Ridgway said.
Fast line might be an understatement. Ridgway has accomplished a remarkable amount both professionally and as a civic and church volunteer while he and his accountant wife, Naomi Tattis Ridgway, raised four children. He even usually cooked breakfast for the family at a time when most fathers spent little time in the kitchen.
Ridgway has served as president of the Jackson Board of Realtors (now the Jackson Association of Realtors) and the Mississippi Association of Realtors in addition to a wide variety of other volunteer positions with those groups and with the National Association of Realtors over the years. He’s been a big supporter of the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) organization. He has served five years on the board of the Jackson Academy and five years on the board of his alma mater, Millsaps College.
He sings in the choir at the Galloway Methodist Church. His family’s first presence there was in 1867 when his great-great-grandfather was the preacher. Ridgway has held many volunteer jobs at Galloway Methodist, including helping arrange live broadcasts of Sunday services, first on television and then also streaming off the Internet. That means he won’t have to miss service even while in South Africa visiting their daughter and her family. He finds it very satisfying to be a part of bringing church services to people who otherwise couldn’t attend.
“If you go to hospitals and nursing homes in Jackson, you will find a huge number of televisions tuned to that station on Sunday mornings,” Ridgway said. “We have an audience of about 2,500 people for the live broadcasts.”
He also served as president of the national YMCA of USA board of trustees during a time when wise investments helped that organization make millions in the stock market.
While working out of an office on Capitol Street next to the old federal courthouse that his family has had since 1927, Ridgway has been involved in helping develop and manage commercial properties. The company also handles oil development and timber management.
“Timber management is what is the most fun,” Ridgway said. “Nobody talks back to you. It is gorgeous when you get on a four-wheeler out in the woods, especially this time of year. That is nice.”
Ridgway went into real estate immediately after graduating with a degree in economics from Millsaps College in 1969. After two years of service in the Army, he returned to the real estate business. Early in his career he decided he didn’t want to sell houses.
“There is too much emotion in that,” Ridgway said. “The work is primarily at night and weekends, and dust and weeds play a profound part in decision-making. That is why I decided to go into commercial real estate.”
The changes in the local real estate market have been dramatic over the course of his career. There used to be several stores within a few blocks of his office to buy a suit. Today, there is little retail downtown, and areas that used to be considered too under populated to support retail — like Lakeland Drive and Ridgeland — are now the retail centers of the Metro area.
“The real estate market has been very interesting,” Ridgway said. “Our office is across the street from Regions and Trustmark. We got down there before they built that building, saw it being built, watched it prosper and now they are having difficulty filling it back up when the bank moved to another spot. There are some interesting and wonderful people who have lived in the town for as long as I remember, great citizens of the city and state who were profoundly interested in the health of the community. A lot of those folks have died or moved away. Deposit Guaranty was a strong corporate citizen of the city and state before it was sold off.”
While the changes can be sobering, Ridgway doesn’t like to dwell on what used to be.
“Every time something disappears, something interesting comes up on the horizon,” he said. “You have to keep looking forward to the good things happening now. All sorts of good things are going on in the Metro area, and a lot of new and innovative things are going on downtown that hopefully will blossom and prove to be real good additions.”
Things have also changed on the home front. After the kids went to college, they ripped out and remodeled the kitchen.
“We love making interesting things,” Ridgway said. “I’m a guy who, when he gets in the kitchen, has a lot of fun.”
He comes by his cooking and real estate interests naturally. His mother, Sarah Raney Ridgway, 90, has a reputation as a very accomplished cook. She estimates she has cooked about 80,000 meals in her life. His father, Charles Robert Ridgway III, 97, was president of the Jackson Board of Realtors in 1940s.
Ridgway first got involved in CCIM back in the 1970s. The professional organization that has 10,000 members across the world now recommends that commercial real estate people prosper by getting together and sharing ideas.
“We were doing that years and years before it was recommended as a way of doing business,” Ridgway said. “We have a group of about 50 people here in Jackson who eat lunch together every Wednesday. We share ideas in the market and get to know each other.”
The Ridgways have four children: Francis Ray and her husband, Chuck, have two children and live in Jackson; Sara Lokey and her husband, Bryce, live in Montrose, Colo.; Julia Becking and her husband, Mark, live in South Africa; and Charles Robert Ridgeway V, married to Brittany Carr, lives in Ocean Springs.
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