Jack Hadley

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Jack Hadley giving a tour
Jack Hadley gives a tour at the Jack Hadley Black History Museum

James Roosevelt Hadley (born 1936) is the founder and curator of the Jack Hadley Black History Museum in Thomasville, Georgia. He formerly served in the United States Air Force.[1][2]

Life and career[edit]

Hadley was born in 1936 and grew up near Thomasville at Pebble Hill, a former cotton plantation in Thomas County, Georgia. At the time of Hadley's birth, Pebble Hill was mainly used for hunting. He was the tenth of 15 children, and is the grandson of a slave who worked at Pebble Hill.[1][3][2]

After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Air Force, where he worked with supplies and logistics. He has been married for more than sixty years and has three children. His tenure included postings in Europe, the Middle East and Vietnam. After 28 years he retired with the rank of chief master sergeant. The family moved back to Thomasville and Hadley started working for the United States Postal Service, until his retirement in 1997.[1][3][4]

Hadley is a Prince Hall Freemason.[5] In 2018, Thomas University awarded him an honorary bachelor's degree in business administration, in recognition of his work in the Air Force and the community.[4] In February 2020, he was the grand marshal in Thomasville's second annual Black History Month parade and celebration.[6]

Jack Hadley Black History Museum[edit]

Hadley began collecting newspaper clippings on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, and in the late 1970s he helped his son with a schoolproject about black history. This grew his interest in black history, and he was later invited to participate in Black History Month events in Thomasville. He started collecting memorabilia, which in time became the collection of his museum.[1][3]

Hadley founded the museum in 1995; in 2006 it opened at its current location, a former school in Thomasville.[1][2] The museum has received grants to "provide educational programming for school students in the Thomas County and Thomasville City School systems",[7] and in 2019 it started an education pilot program in cooperation with Thomas County Middle School.[8] As of 2019, the museum has more than 4,000 items.[9]

The museum has had more than 18,000 visitors since 2006, and reported nearly 4,000 visitors in 2018. In 2017, Hadley, his family and the museum were honored in a resolution from the Georgia House of Representatives.[10][5][11] Wayne Clough, former Secretary of the Smithsonian, praised the museum after visiting.[12]

Hadley also created the "Thomasville Black Heritage Trail Tour", a "step-on, step-off" tour which focuses on Henry Ossian Flipper (1856–1940), an American soldier and former slave.[13] The museum successfully advocated the creation of a commemorative postage stamp for Flipper, as well as naming a Thomasville post office after him.[5]

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

As of late 2020 the museum was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The museum has made efforts to provide educational resources virtually, and has been granted CARES Act money for this purpose.[14][15] In September, the museum cooperated with 4 other Thomasville organizations in creating a photo contest for students in Thomas County. The theme of the contest was to document life during the pandemic.[16]

Imperial Hotel[edit]

The Negro Travelers' Green Book
The Negro Travelers' Green Book (1959), the Imperial Hotel included on page 16

Following the attention garnered by the 2018 film Green Book, Hadley involved himself in an attempt to restore the Imperial Hotel, a Thomasville building from 1949 included in The Negro Travelers' Green Book, a travel guide for African-Americans listing places that would not refuse them service. Hadley commented that had he known about the book in the 1960s, it would have been helpful to him, since he often had to drive long distances and at times was turned away because he was black.[17][18][19]

There are plans to make part of the Imperial Hotel a "satellite site" of the Jack Hadley Black History Museum, and as of October 2019, over $190,000 had been raised for the restoration. A group of historians led by Hadley has purchased the building, the city's only black-owned hotel.[2][20][21] In October 2019, the efforts received recognition from Thomasville Landmarks, a local historical society.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e Proietti, Matt. "Black history museum is retired chief's passion". U.S. Air Force. United States Air Force. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Waters, TaMaryn (February 23, 2019). "This hotel was in the real 'Green Book.' Inside a $1M quest to restore it and save black history". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "History – JackHadleyBlackHistoryMuseum". Jack Hadley Black History Museum. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "TU presents Hadley with honorary degree, honors Burch for teaching excellence". Thomas University. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "HR 235 2017-2018 Regular session". www.legis.ga.gov. Georgia House of Representatives. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  6. ^ "Thomasville celebrates 2nd annual Black History Month parade". Tallahassee Democrat. February 7, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  7. ^ "Hadley Black History Museum will use grant for school program". Tallahassee Democrat. July 26, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  8. ^ "Jack Hadley Black History Museum begins education pilot program". Thomasville Times-Enterprise. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  9. ^ Dantes, Candace. "7 Georgia destinations to take in African-American culture". ajc. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  10. ^ "Hadley honored at General Assembly". Thomasville Times-Enterprise. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  11. ^ "JACK HADLEY BLACK HISTORY MEMORABILIA, INC. Thomasville, Georgia 2018 ANNUAL REPORT AND ACTION PLAN 2019-2020" (PDF). jackhadleyblackhistorymuseum.com. Jack Hadley Black History Museum. p. 19. Retrieved September 20, 2019. Total Visitors to the Museum 2018 3,769
  12. ^ Donahue, Pat (January 17, 2020). "Clough's journeys through the Smithsonian take him back to Georgia roots". Thomasville Times-Enterprise. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  13. ^ Schemmel, William (2009). Georgia Off the Beaten Path®, 9th: A Guide to Unique Places. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 70. ISBN 9780762753505. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  14. ^ Humphrey, Niah (May 7, 2020). "Jack Hadley Black History Museum continues virtual education". WALB. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  15. ^ "Jack Hadley Black History Museum Awarded CARES Act grant". Thomasville Times-Enterprise. June 15, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  16. ^ "Thomas County seeks to document COVID with photo contest". Tallahassee Democrat. September 22, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  17. ^ Dauer, Paige. "Renovations continue for Thomasville's Imperial Hotel". WALB. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  18. ^ Mathews, Noelani. "Black History Museum to restore Thomasville's own 'Green Book' hotel". WCTV. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  19. ^ Humphrey, Niah (February 7, 2020). "Thomasville's Imperial Hotel renovations still in progress". WALB. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  20. ^ Donahue, Pat. "Pieces of History". Valdosta Daily Times. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Imperial Hotel receives plaque from Landmarks". Thomasville Times-Enterprise. Retrieved November 3, 2019.


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