Hugh S. Jordan, 95: Legislator, dad embodied fairness, serving others

Hugh Jordan

Hugh Jordan

The children of Hugh S. Jordan got together and assembled “smile jars.” They filled them with written memories of experiences with their father. The happy anecdotes paint a picture of Hugh’s character as an altruistic “man in motion.”

Jordan, a former Georgia legislator, born April 9, 1921, died Dec. 30. He was 95. A visitation “meet and greet” will take place Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Wages & Sons Stone Mountain Chapel. The memorial service will be at Stone Mountain First United Methodist Church on Jan. 5 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

He “never missed a moment,” his son Scott said, or an opportunity to spread his words of wisdom. At every turn, he shared his knowledge with family, friends, and strangers. And, “He never missed a day that he didn’t think about helping someone else,” Scott said. “That’s the character of my father. He was always thinking of someone else instead of himself.”

Hugh Jordan had a commitment to fairness, always trying to work out any conflicts as fairly as he could. As the pieces of the dessert pie spun around the lazy Susan and vanished, “There would be times when there was only one piece of pie left,” Scott said, “and there’d be more than one person that wanted it. That would generally be my brother and I.” Any time there was one piece of pie and more than one person who wanted it, Hugh would have one cut the piece in half, and the other was first to pick which piece to have.

When his daughter Jyll was eight or nine — at the age she thought she knew it all and didn’t believe Santa Claus was real — her father managed to pull the wool over her eyes one last time. Hugh got the idea to build a playhouse for his daughter in their terrace garden in the backyard. In the days leading up to Christmas Eve, he made preparations to construct the house overnight. All in one night, he and some friends erected the playhouse, which was complete with doors, windows and electricity.

She woke up the next morning, saw what had been made, and said without doubt, “Only Santa Claus could do that!” Jyll said the Christmas playhouse story was always one of her dad’s favorite stories to tell. “I was definitely sure there was a Santa Claus after that.”

Jyll said she feels like she grew up “in a cross between ‘Leave It to Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best.’ ” She remembers every day her father would come home around 6:15 in the evening, after closing his department store, Haynie’s, at 6 p.m. Her mother had dinner ready for the family, and her father would come into the kitchen, “every day,” and give his wife a kiss hello. “That was a norm,” she said. “I didn’t know anything else but that. I didn’t know that people didn’t get along. I didn’t know that adults fought.”

Hugh Jordan often gave his time freely to those who needed it, whether it was to his family or to a stranger. It was a mark of his kindness and generosity. “No matter who called him, day or night, he was there to help them,” his daughter Karen said, adding that he never let his family forget that they were first.

When he was in politics, Karen recalled how people would come over to the house to speak with him about a bill. “Dad would talk to anybody,” she said, adding that complete strangers would call and make an appointment to come and speak with her father, and he would meet with them. “How many legislators do you know who do that?” she asked.

If they didn’t seem prepared, he would help them learn how to form an objection and schedule another appointment with them to hear them out. “That’s how he got 40 to 50 bills through the legislature,” she told the AJC.

At the annual Democratic dinner on May 17, 1977, former Gov. George Busbee spoke about Jordan. He said, “Georgians are losing one of the most effective and dedicated lawmakers in the House of Representatives.” Jordan was then presented with a glass sculpture, created by Hans Godo Frabel, titled “Man In Motion”—a phrase that perfectly reflected Jordan’s life.

When he was in his 40s and frustrated that life still didn’t seem to be going his way. Scott asked his father, “Dad, how old do I have to be before I get my way?” Hugh replied, “Son, I’m much older than you and I still haven’t got my way yet.”

It was another lesson from his father as an adult, Scott said: “It’s not about you, its about other people. If you concentrate on the welfare of other people you’ll be fine. You’ll be happy in life.”

Hugh Jordan is survived by his five children, Joy, Karen, Scott, Mac and Jyll, 8 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild.