Whether assigned a difficult task requiring unflinching leadership and dedication or entertaining friends over a card game, Jack Albright was the kind of a man who proved himself successful under any set of circumstances.
"You’ve heard … the term the greatest generation? He was very much a part of that," said Ray Brill, minister of the Wesley United Methodist Church in Vienna, where Jack Albright was a parishioner for more than 30 years. "He was a selfless servant, a man of incredible integrity, just honest to the core. It sounds cliché, but they don’t make them like him anymore."
Jack Albright, who had served for more than 40 years in the Army Signal Corps, climbing from the bottom ranks to become a major general, died on May 12. The Vienna resident of 30 years and father of two was 86-years-old.
The loss affects the church community deeply, as the absence of the former chairman of the church’s board of trustees amounts to the sudden disappearance of a leader for the church during the last three decades, according to Brill.
"He could bring joy and life to any situation, he always saw the good in people," he said. "He has left an imprint on those here at the church, and we will continue to live in that example that he left for us."
JACK ALBRIGHT did not go through life alone.
When he was a child and first moved with his family from his native Tennessee to central Mississippi in the mid-1930s, he met the young girl who would soon be his wife.
"His father had moved to the neighborhood first and when Jack was about to move down there, he told Jack that he had found him a girlfriend already," said Beth Albright. "And he meant me," she said with a laugh.
While the two started off as friends, their romantic relationship didn’t really take off until Jack, at 18 years old in 1939, enlisted in the Army.
"In those years, they were the depression years … so he went into the Army because he wanted to learn a trade," Beth Albright said.
That’s when the letters began. What started out as a friendly couple of notes soon grew to a letter every single day exchanged between the then-teenaged couple. After a year, Beth Albright said she knew she was in love.
"It just got more and more personal as time went on," she said. "He just had such high principles and a lot of the same things that were important to him were important to me."
BUT LIFE in the Army Signal Corps was not always safe for Jack Albright. This was first made clear to Beth Albright in December 1941, when her soon-to-be-husband was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack that ignited U.S. involvement in World War II.
"I didn’t know whether he had been killed or not, we had heard about it in the news and so many people had been killed," Beth Albright said.
A day later she was in her dormitory at Mississippi Southern University when she was told that she had a phone call downstairs. It was her boyfriend letting her know that while he had suffered some shrapnel wounds to the head, he was in good health.
The two would marry shortly after that in 1942, but the attack proved not to be the only time Jack Albright was put in the line of danger. He was hospitalized while serving in North Africa in 1944 and was involved in nearly a dozen plane and helicopter crashes throughout his 40-year career, she said.
"For awhile I didn’t want him to fly anymore and tried to get him to stop," Beth Albright said. "But I finally gave up. Flying was so much faster. If it’s going to kill him one way he might as well not have to spend so many hours on the road," she said with a laugh.
After Jack Albright retired from his final post as commander of Army Communications Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. in 1976, he and his wife relocated to the Town of Vienna where he began work as a communications consultant for a government contractor.
"We liked the location [of Vienna], we liked the quietness, we have a wonderful neighborhood here," Beth Albright said.
After retiring in 1992, Jack and Beth Albright spent their final years together taking cruises, playing bridge, attending church and visiting Jack Albright’s favorite vacation destination, Hawaii.
JACK ALBRIGHT was a fun-loving and exuberant friend and party host, said Janet Dixon, a fellow Vienna resident, Wesley United Methodist Church parishioner and family friend for more than 30 years.
"He was a lot of fun, and for a former general in the Army, you wouldn’t think that," Dixon said, "but he loved to tell jokes and always told funny stories."
Some of her favorite stories that Jack Albright would tell over bridge games with the Dixons involved his time as a military aide to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, she added.
"He used to have a special relationship with [Johnson], and that was always funny to hear about how [Johnson] would say things or tease him," Dixon said. "His stories were always so interesting to me."
And he was always a romantic, attentive and caring husband, Beth Albright said.
"Everything I needed, he made sure I had," she said, adding that she could not pinpoint a particular time in their relationship as the happiest. "It’s all been happy, I don’t think there’s any one time I could pick out as happier than another."
"He was just a loving, caring husband, he loved his children, his family and his friends, he would have done anything for them."