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A portrait of service: McCord retires after nearly 40 years

Hard work began for Thomson's J.T. "Jake" McCord when he was just a little boy, picking cotton in the fields of nearby Lincoln County.

Years later, his hard work and determination to do a job correct the first time around helped him become one of the longest serving employees for the City of Thomson.

"Hard work ain't never hurt nobody," said Mr. McCord, while sitting in an old wooden rocking chair on the front porch of his house on Railroad Street. "It ain't never killed me, and I done it a heap of years."

For nearly 40 years, Mr. Jake, as everyone who knows him calls him, has cut hundreds and hundreds of miles of grass within the city limits of Thomson.

And that's just one of the jobs he's performed.

At a recent meeting, city fathers honored Mr. Jake with a framed proclamation for his years of faithful dedication. The 62-year-old man recently retired after 39½ years of service, due to health reasons.

He's proud to have been remembered and honored in such a way.

"It means a great deal to me to have a plaque hanging up in my house," said Mr. Jake. "It hangs right in my hallway."

Mr. Jake said aside from receiving the proclamation, which described him as "an institution" in Thomson, he enjoyed having it presented to him by Mayor Bob Knox, Jr.

The two men have been longtime friends.

"He's a pretty good fellow," Mr. Jake said of the mayor. "He was a good boss."

An average day in Mr. Jake's retired life now consists of cleaning his house and working on some of his unfinished art paintings.

Mr. Jake is a self-taught folk artist.

It's a hobby that he first took up way back in 1967, and he's loved it ever since.

"I still paint pictures," said Mr. Jake. "I paint people on bicycles, cats and dogs. All of them is about my favorites. There ain't too much difference in them."

He's never sold many of his paintings. Instead, he's donated many of them to museums or simply given them away to people who have admired them so much. Some of the museums where his art works are shown are located in Augusta, South Carolina and as far away as New York.

Mr. Jake estimates that he has completed some 500 paintings over the years.

"It just makes things go better," said Mr. Jake. "It's just like an old friend I ain't seen in a long time when I see one hanging somewhere."

Mr. Jake, who has undergone open heart surgery, said he feels pretty good most days.

One of 11 children, Mr. Jake enjoys reminiscing about his past - especially his childhood, when he and his siblings picked lots of cotton while growing up in neighboring Lincoln County.

"Them old long rows in the cotton fields - what brings back memories," said Mr. Jake. "We had to pick them old long rows."

From 8 a.m. until dark was the time for picking cotton - most days, he said.

"They made me a little old flower sack," said Mr. Jake. "You know this flour, they call it Robin flour - it had a Robin on the side of the sack. They made me a cotton sack out of it. That's what I picked cotton in. The grown people, they picked in these croaker sacks, hanging cross the shoulders."

His life in the fields and on the back of a lawnmower has taught him people should appreciate what they have and to thank God for their blessings.

As for young people today, Mr. Jake also has some advice.

"They should get them a job, and go to work," said Mr. Jake. "And stay away from drugs. Go to school, and stay away from drugs. Get 'em a good job, and go to work."

Web posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007

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