Susie Jackson

A picture of Susie Jackson, 87, who was one of the nine slain Wednesday night at Emanuel AME Church.

Public records will always show that Susie Jackson had two children. But she raised so many relatives that her family puts the actual figure closer to 50, said great-nephew Horace Taylor Jr., who counts himself among them.

“Even my mother was raised by her,” Taylor said. “She took care of this family for generations.”

Taylor credits Jackson with teaching him how to tell the difference between right and wrong, and upbraiding him when he tended toward the latter. “I had my pants down low, and she told me to pull my pants up,” he recalls, naming a fashion choice that didn’t fly in a family which considers dapper dressing its trademark. “She showed me better ways of being a man.”

When reading the Bible, Jackson was apt to turn to Proverbs, her favorite book and the source of the verse, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Jackson held a variety of jobs during her working years, yet no job was more important to the devout Christian than drawing her family close.

At one time, almost every house on Jackson’s block was owned by a relative. But her home, a classic Charleston single, was the center of family gatherings. “You come from out of town, this is where you come,” her nephew Robert Sanders said. “She opened her arms to us.”

Sunday dinners at Jackson’s house that began with one or two guests sometimes ended with dozens of people around the table. Family members who lived nearby would bring extra china, and enough turkey and ham to feed the crowd. Jackson made the collard greens. “Man, I’m going to miss that,” Sanders said. “She could stir a mean pot.”

Hanna Raskin