M.D. Anderson Memorial Plaza Unveiled

By: Jackson Tourism on Oct 17, 2012

The West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation along with Jackson Downtown Development unveiled the M. D. Anderson Memorial Plaza in Downtown Jackson on October 16, 2012. This memorial plaza is located between the two Federal Buildings on North Highland Avenue. It honors the memory of four great men from Jackson: M. D. Anderson, Will Clayton, Frank Anderson and Ben Clayton.

The M. D. Anderson Memorial Plaza Bill was presented to Congress by Congressman Steven Fincher and approved by Congress and signed by President Barak Obama on January 3, 2012. On hand for the October 16 dedication were Senator Lamar Alexander and Congressman Steven Fincher to unveil the 11-foot sign for the plaza. The Tennessee State Historical Commission marker will be unveiled by Representative Jimmy Eldridge and Senator Lowe Finney.

While the plaza is named in honor of one of Jackson’s most famous natives, M.D. Anderson, the nine-foot, granite monolith that will be installed in December will honor not only Anderson, but also Will Clayton, former Secretary of Commerce and Assistant Secretary of State under President Roosevelt and “Father of the Marshall Plan” as well as Ben Clayton and Frank Anderson. These four Jackson natives lead the way nationally in the cotton industry and turned a business that began on the corner of Highland Avenue and Baltimore into the largest cotton trading company in the world. By the year of 1929 Anderson, Clayton & Company had offices in Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, England, Mexico, France, Italy and Germany to continue their lead in the cotton industry. By 1935 the company was literally a global merchandiser of cotton.

Funding for this major downtown project came through Jackson donors and family members of the Clayton and Anderson families. “It has been encouraging to see family members of these great men connect with their family’s rich Jackson history,” stated Dickie Day, chair of the M. D. Anderson Memorial Fund at the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation. The Congressional Act prevents any governmental funds being used for this memorial.

“We are so proud to honor these great men who moved on to greater successes. While their businesses expanded beyond our city, their hearts and families were still in this wonderful community,” stated Frank McMeen, President of the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation. “We are blessed to have men like Dickie Day to work for nearly four years to make this project a reality,” continued McMeen.

M. D. Anderson, a Jackson banker and later President of the Anderson, Clayton & Company in Houston, Texas became one of the richest men in America during the early 1900’s. As the company grew it was necessary for Frank Anderson and Will Clayton to ask M. D. to move to Houston in order to be near larger banks and deeper ports. With this move to Houston, the Anderson, Clayton & Company soon became the largest cotton merchandiser in the world. Upon his death in 1939, his foundation became the recipient of the largest bequest in Texas history.

Through the M. D. Anderson Foundation a $500,000 donation was made to locate the Texas Medical Center in Houston which led to the establishment of the M. D. Cancer Center.

Not only was Jackson native Will Clayton vital to the success of Anderson, Clayton & Company, but was also involved in the Roosevelt administration. He served as Secretary of Commerce and Assistant Secretary of State. Upon visiting war-torn Europe, he became the author of the Marshall Plan.

Frank E. Anderson, brother of M. D. Anderson, was a local cotton merchant with his office at the corner of Baltimore and Highland in the late 1880’s. Frank married Burdine Clayton, sister of Will Clayton. Will was also in the cotton business in St. Louis and New York City. In 1904 Frank and Will moved to Oklahoma City where cotton grew bountifully. In 1907 the company became so successful that the men needed a partner to help finance the expansion of their company to Houston. To meet this need M. D. gave up his banking career to move the company to Houston.

Ben Clayton, another Jackson native, was involved in the growth of Anderson, Clayton & Company. He was responsible for the development of the overseas shipping operation. Eventually he left the company and formed the Clayton Foundation Research which generously supported the University of Texas at Austin. He founded the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas at Austin in 1940. Ben Clayton died at the age of 96 in 1978.

As a public foundation, the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation is able to provide professional stewardship with the charitable efforts of the people of West Tennessee as they support good causes. “We are delighted that this memorial is being placed in Downtown Jackson. Their business successes changed not only this country but had an impact around the world,” stated Katie Pace, Executive Director of the Jackson Downtown Development Corporation.

Questions or donations may be sent to the M. D. Anderson Memorial Fund c/o the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation, 620 Skyline Drive, Jackson, TN 38301. For more information, contact Frank McMeen at (731-984-2143) or email at: Frank.McMeen@wth.org

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