The Cannon name is synonymous throughout Tipton and Haywood Counties with integrity, honor, compassion and perseverance and it all started with Jesse James Cannon Sr.

To honor their father, grandfather and great-grandfather, the family of Jesse James Cannon, Sr. has established the Jesse James Cannon Sr. “Perseverance” Scholarship for graduating seniors of Covington High and Haywood High School.

Cannon, who passed away on Dec. 26, 2008 at the age of 93, was the great-grandson of people enslaved in Haywood County.

Jesse James Cannon Sr.

His great-grandfather became a land owner after he was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation and his grandfather, Anderson Cannon, amassed several tracts of land and began his own pharmacy. The Cannon family credits Anderson Cannon with inspiring his family to own land and work hard for themselves.

Jesse Cannon Sr. took his grandfather’s lessons to heart and worked hard to overcome the adversity he faced throughout his life, including the abandonment of his father and the death of three wives. He became the rock his family needed and drew upon his faith and persevered through his life’s hardships.

His determination and the need to provide for his family gave him the will to succeed.

Cannon was a key player in the early civil rights movement in Haywood County and he worked tirelessly to help bring desegregation to the county of his birth. He learned from his grandfather that education was the key tosuccess and he passed that lesson on to his own children, encouraging all to further their education so that they may reach whatever goal they had set before themselves.

“From the very beginning he realized and instilled within our family, the necessity of education,” said his granddaughter Jessica Cannon. “He was a shining example for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the importance of hard work, preparation for the future, and never settling for less than one’s capabilities. His ever-present advice to his family was, ‘put your big head to thinking and stop your own self from stinking.’”

It is in honor of his love of learning and caring for his fellow man that the Cannon family has established an annual scholarship for graduating seniors from the hometowns of his birth and life.

The Jesse James Cannon, Sr. “Perseverance” Scholarship is a one-time award of $500 which will be presented to a graduating senior from Covington and Haywood High Schools who have demonstrated the true spirit of perseverance by enduring a personal hardship while also maintaining superior academic performance.

“My grandfather died at the age of 93, but his affection and encouragement toward the youth of Haywood and Tipton Counties lives on,” wrote Jessica. “As we honor his memory with an educational scholarship, we also honor an entire Haywood County family of pioneers in business, education, civic involvement and spiritual development.”

Senior applicants must meet the following criteria:

1. Applicant must be a graduating senior at Haywood High School in Brownsville or Covington High School in Covington. Both schools are located in the communities that were highly influenced and impacted by Jesse James Cannon, Sr.

2. Applicant must complete the Jesse James Cannon, Sr. Perseverance Scholarship application available from the school guidance counselors.

3. Applicant must provide a copy of an “acceptance letter” from the college or university he or she plans to attend.

4. Applicant must compose a one (1) page double-spaced essay that is to accompany the completed scholarship application. The essay must describe and express a personal hardship experienced by the applicant, what inspired the applicant to persevere through this hardship while maintaining above average academic performance, AND the ways in which this scholarship will benefit the furthering of the applicant’s education.

5. Applicant must submit the completed application, college or university acceptance letter, and one (1) page essay by Thursday, April 1, 2010 to: Jessica Cannon, Executive Director; Jesse James Cannon, Sr. Perseverance Scholarship Fund; 1501 Woodland Pointe Drive, Apt. 2008; Nashville, TN 37214.

Sherri Onorati
Author: Sherri Onorati