In Memoriam: Jerry Ross Spinks
Riverside Avondale Preservation would like to take a moment to honor the life and contributions of one of its most active and beloved members: Jerry Ross Spinks.
Jerry is regarded as a pillar in our community. Like a pillar, his strength and perseverance held up the preservation movement in Jacksonville. He led by example. In his characteristic soft-spoken manner and with the utmost humility, Jerry championed some of the most ambitious and important preservation projects.
Jerry Ross Spinks was born February 10, 1938 in Borger, Texas. Mr. Spinks graduated from Admiral Farragut Academy, Florida State University and Florida State University Law School. He was a member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve, 1963-1971. In 1972, Jerry moved to Jacksonville and began his 35-year career at the Internal Revenue Service. Jerry was a pillar in our community and gave of his time and energy to so many causes; he was active in Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Riverside Fine Arts Association, and West Jacksonville Rotary, was chair of the Southwest Citizens Planning Advisory Committee and treasurer of the Navy League of Jacksonville, and led the Cemeteries Commission. “Most that knew him knew some, but not all, of his projects,” said Wayne Wood, founder of RAP. “He was the ultimate behind-the-scenes person, who got an extraordinary amount of things done.”
Jerry’s biggest passion was preservation. Dr. Wayne Wood recalls his involvement in RAP began fairly early on in 1974—just shortly after the organization was created. He quickly became the leading force behind Christmas Luminaria – an event which he brought to the district and chaired for over two decades. Jerry’s involvement in preservation grew with RAP. He served in various leadership capacities, including being a past president for several terms.
Jerry was also involved in the Riverside Arts Market. Wood recalls him arriving at 7:15 every Saturday morning to set up the children’s tent – not out of obligation, but out of love for his neighborhood. Jerry saved over a dozen buildings from demolition by moving them to secure locations and then rehabilitating them. One of his most significant accomplishments was to secure the Buckland House for RAP’s headquarters. Executive Director Carmen Godwin remembers Jerry as a cheerleader for the community who was as interested in the cultural history of those who inhabited those buildings as he was in the buildings themselves.
Appointed by Mayor John Delaney to the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission in 1996, Jerry went on to serve six years on the Commission, which included four years as chairman. In addition to directing the Commission in carrying out its significant and challenging duties, Jerry also dedicated time to other preservation issues and initiatives. He was appointed by Council President Matt Carlucci to serve on his Downtown Historic Preservation Taskforce that addressed the preservation and adaptive use of abandoned and underutilized historic buildings in our city core. He served as co-chair of the Ribault Club House Restoration Taskforce, which was a joint state-city committee dedicated to the preservation, proper rehabilitation, and reuse of the historic Ribault Club House on Fort George Island.
After leaving the Commission in 2001, Jerry began turning his time, energy, and skills to the many programs and initiatives of the Jacksonville Historical Society. In addition to being a member of the Board of Directors, Jerry’s early involvement with the Society included serving on the liaison committee that arranged the programs and tours associated with the visit to Jacksonville by the John W. Brown, the last operating Liberty Ship in the country. He was also chairman of the Society’s Historical Sites Committee that developed a system and program for identifying endangered historic properties.
“Jerry, an immediate past-president of the Jacksonville Historical Society, tirelessly led our organization through visionary projects, including acquisition and restoration of the award-winning Merrill House and a major campaign to secure a permanent repository for the rare history of Jacksonville,” said Emily Lisska, Executive Director. “With Jerry, there was much more; he touched so many lives and cultural institutions. His legacy for the local history community and the city are of monumental proportions.”
Perhaps Jerry’s most character-defining quality was his humility. “He was a true southern gentleman,” said Carmen Godwin. “He let his projects and actions speak for themselves and never took credit or needed to be in the limelight,” said Wayne Wood. With a decisive, yet gentle demeanor, Jerry led some of the most significant historic preservation projects in this city by employing his unparalleled diplomatic skills and by demonstrating passion and conviction that were hard not to get behind.
In lieu of flowers, Jerry’s family would like us all to remember him by making a donation to the Old St. Lukes Hospital Campaign.