The 31st Annual Tomato Fest will be on June 13, 2015 in Downtown Jacksonville, Texas. 

(Commerce & Austin Streets)

 Please contact Kim Smith for any additional info


“Power of the Press” 

 1937, Queen Peacock and Her Court


By Deborah Burkett

(Images Speak Column, Cherokeean Herald, July 30, 2014)


I have first hand experience with the “Power of the Press”. Since writing my column, Images Speak, I’ve been amazed at the feedback received. Local Cherokeean Herald subscribers contact me, as do those from out of state--way out of state--Long Island, New York, for one. To my delight, these readers share additional historical information pertinent to my stories.  


More historical data has also come my way due to front-page articles printed in two major East Texas newspapers. Both articles based upon research I collected from local Jacksonville families and their out of town relatives.   


The first was April Barbe’s story in the Jacksonville Daily Progress, Tomatoes: Here’s to You--Annual Tomato Fest Steeped in Tradition.  The other was Faith Harper’s East Texas Tales printed in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Queen & Diplomat, Tomato festival Rivaled Texas Rose Festival from 1934 to 1941.


After this media coverage of the 1936 Tomato Queen, Frances Carolyn Wood Pavletich, I kept “discovering” royalty in our midst due to alert readers. Marie McCullough Thomas of Alto and her niece, Judy Johnson, sent me this old newspaper clipping.


I was thrilled to see two dear friends had been selected as princesses in 1937—Navoleine Ross Roddy and the late Julietta Jarvis.  Mrs Roddy was my second grade school teacher in Mixon and mentioned she had been a tomato princess but could not remember what year and had no documentation to back her claim. But thanks to Marie Thomas she does now. 


Jo Ann Taylor Gray of Jacksonville and owner of Gray’s Cleaners, told me about her reign. Mayor Acker crowned her Queen of the Cherokee Free Fair in 1950.  More about this amazing story in another of my columns.  


But in 1937, Geraldine Peacock, was the fourth Jacksonville Tomato Queen. She and eight of the princesses are pictured in this old newspaper image. Sometimes as many as 35 princesses were selected from East Texas communities and from states as far away as Tennessee and Kentucky. This grand event ended when WWII began. 


Top row, left to right: Virginia Earle of Alto, Queen Geraldine Peacock of Jacksonville, Emodean Acker of Dialville. Middle Row: left to right: Navoleine Ross of Mixon, Julietta Jarvis of Troup, Essie Elizabeth Slaughter of Corsicana. Bottom Row: l to r: Dana Sherman of Wells, Elizabeth Stafford of Palestine and Katherine Boone of Athens.