- Jasper is from the Old Richmond community, near King and Tobaccoville, North Carolina
- Born 1930
- Graduated high school 1948
He joined the Army. Stationed at Ft. Jackson, Ft. Bragg, Ft. Meade, then Italy, Germany and in Salzburg, Austria. He was in infantry mortar company, but he went to Cortina, Italy to cooking school. This training led him into food service. He was discharged at Ft. Meade.
Coming to RJR
After the Army he was in Winston-Salem with a friend who went to RJR employment office, in the basement of the Reynolds Building. Jasper did not want a job. Jasper went in and there were fifty or so people (all African-American guys). They were dismissed, presumably after applying for work. Fred Hauser, head of Personnel, kept pointing at Jasper and motioning for Jasper to stay.
After a fifteen minute interview, Hauser then took Jasper up to 18th floor to meet Ed Darr, the CEO. Darr invited Jasper to his house that afternoon, showed him the house, and put him in charge of food service for the family as a personal employee.
Memorable Events at RJR
He shopped at the Basketeria on Reynolda Road. Darr had a freezer locker on Thurmond Avenue. He told Jasper to empty the freezer periodically. Every three months Jasper gave away to charity the unused contents and restocked the freezer with fresh beef.
The Darrs had two daughters, one at Randolph Macon and another married to Robert Sartin of Sartin Dry Cleaners . Son David was in RJR sales in Puerto Rico. Son Ed Darr, Jr. was in Boone: he had a company that made pipes for smoking tobacco.
Jasper worked for the Darr family from 1955-58. Mr. Darr died suddenly in 1958. David Jr. honored his Dad’s wishes to give Jasper a job at RJR. He started in Research at Plant #12 carrying samples. He then moved to #97 as a cigarette inspector. He found both jobs boring, and then he moved to the Archer Aluminum rolling plant #200, working in stockroom.
One day he was inspecting a part number on a rolling mill. CEO Bill Carter was on a tour with an entourage when he saw Jasper. He said, “Jasper. Where the hell have you been.” Jasper knew Carter through his work with the Darr family. He had visited the Carter home. Carter wanted Jasper to come to work at the RJR headquarters, and very shortly, Bob Hoots, Jasper’s supervisor, called Jasper and told him to report downtown to Truck and Storage.
The Plan was to employ Jasper and Willie Key, to drive two busses on tours for Whitaker Park (the giant new cigarette plant that was under construction). However, the City took a contract for the bussing.
He spent eight years as a driver on the tobacco market. He drove for Mr. Glenn. The buyers and drivers started each leaf buying season in Valdosta, GA on July 4. They moved north through the Carolinas, Virginia, and into Maryland during the autumn months. They ended at the Burley tobacco market in Kentucky in November. Jasper was on the road roughly six months. He spent the remainder of his year at Truck &Storage.
T&S had eight or nine drivers for buyers on the leaf market. Jasper saw how the markets worked, unfortunately not always ethically. The warehouse owners and some leaf buyers conspired to force the poorer farmers to sell early at low prices. When a farmer arrived for the sale with his tobacco he would be told that his sale would have to be delayed for two or three days. He might have his family with him, and he could not afford to wait so he would unload his tobacco. The traders would buy his tobacco behind the warehouse and then take it on the floor and sell. Pinhookers (independent tobacco brokers) engaged in this. Jasper was “invited” to not be on the scene when this was taking place. But a pinhooker from Durham told Jasper about how the scheme worked.
Jasper worked the Middle Belt, Old Belt, and on the Burley market. He remembers being on the Burley market in Bowling Green, Kentucky when President Kennedy was shot.
The leaf buyers received gifts from grateful customers. He once had seven-teen country hams in his car as he returned to Winston-Salem. These were gifts to his leaf buyer. When they returned to Winston-Salem, he brought five into Mr. Glenn’s wife Ethel. She said, “We have hams left from last year. Give these to the poor.” Leaf buyers included Charlie Cherry, Stewart Leake, Fenton Royster, Rice Allen.
Jasper shared two stories from his early days as a driver – one about John Whitaker and the other about Colin Stokes. His anecdotes tell a lot about the kind of men they were and why the workers thought so much of them.
Early as a driver, John Whitaker invited Jasper another worker, James Grant, to fish. Grant worked at #4 cigarette plant. Grant had bought a Cadillac. He asked to speak to Mr. Whitaker, and then told Whitaker that he had not been allowed to work for two weeks since he bought a Cadillac. Management did not approve of Grant’s purchase.
The next day Whitaker came to #4 plant, entering through the back door. He wore a beat-up old hat and the plant people did not recognize him. When he got to the front office, people asked who he was and why he was in the factory. Whitaker told them and that he was looking for James Grant who was not there. Whitaker said, “He can’t work because he bought a car. Could you take care of that?” Whitaker walked out and went back to the Reynolds Building. They called James the next morning and said, “Please don’t cause any more trouble. You can work all you want.”
Jasper carried Colin Stokes to Fairmont on the tobacco market. Stokes requested Jasper. Jasper wore a chauffer’s cap, and it gave him a headache. Mr. Stokes always rode up front with Jasper. Stokes noticed Jasper moving the cap around and asked about cap. Jasper said, “Mr. Stokes, they told us drivers we needed to wear these, but it hurts by head. Stokes said, “Jasper, give me that cap.” Stokes took the cap, threw it out the window, and said, ‘Guys like Eddie and you are caring for our safety and that of our wives and children, doing favors for us. RJR should not be worried about a cap. Later his bosses asked about Jasper’s cap, and he told them Mr. Stokes said he didn’t have to wear a cap.
After Jasper drove on the market, he switched to driving all the executives about 1967-68 – Charlie Wade, Joe Sherrill, Colin Stokes, Dave Peoples. Wade had requested that Jasper and Eddie Johnson to work with them.
Charlie Wade was at meeting in Raleigh at the Sir Walter Hotel. Jasper took a message for him, and Wade later returned the call. After the meeting, on way to a restaurant, Wade told Jasper that the call involved both GM and Ford, each wanting to build a plant near Winston-Salem. Wade said that Forsyth County had RJR, Western Electric, and Hanes and didn’t need anything else. The presumption was that they didn’t want wage competition or the United Auto Workers in the area. (This would be consistent with the local thinking. Forsyth also rejected the Triad Regional Airport which was built near Greensboro in Guilford County. GAH)
Jasper picked up Malcolm McLean at McLean Trucking Company and drove him across town to see Alex Galloway. McLean lived in Manhattan but had returned to Winston-Salem to visit Alex. He was sitting on the steps of McLean Trucking waiting for Jasper. Jasper took Malcolm to the Reynolds Building. Malcolm always rode up front with Jasper, not in back, and he gave Jasper a $10 tip ($75 2020)
He spent time with Alex in Raleigh. Galloway attended a periodic evening meeting of a select group of North Carolina business leader with the governor. When they returned to Winston-Salem, Alex always gave Jasper a $50 tip and complimented him.
In 1977, after several years in T&S, Jasper was being called to drive for RJR cocktail parties, bartending, and other duties. Nancy Holder always requested Jasper and Eddie. The T&S group seemed to resent his being called away for these jobs. One day Jasper drove Charlie Frank Benbow, the RJR Treasurer, to Charlotte. Jasper described his conflict, and then Benbow told Jasper he would be moving to the World Headquarters on Thursday. That day he was called to WHQ. He reported to Nancy Holder from that point. Like most everyone else, Jasper said Nancy was really, really great to work with.
For eight years (1977-85), Jasper drove Paul Sticht to Governor Hunt’s North Carolina business committee meetings. This was a roundtable of North Carolina CEOs that included John Medlin of Wachovia Bank and Bill Lee of Duke Power. The group met three times a year at various cities. Jasper got to know Governor Hunt. Mabel Perkins as RJR scheduled the meetings, and Jasper not only drove but served as bartender and assistant at these meetings.
Every Christmas, Governor Hunt had a dinner for this group at the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh. Hunt called Jasper at his office at the World Headquarters and invited Jasper to come to the party. The evening of the party, Jasper donned his tux at the Sir Walter Hotel, but an RJR executive challenged Jasper. “There is no place for you to eat, unless you eat in the kitchen with the security people.” Paul Sticht got to the mansion, and Hunt asked for Jasper. Sticht did not want to cause conflict and passed off the question. Hunt came to the hotel later that evening, saw Jasper, and called him aside to ask what had happened. Jasper told the Governor that he was not permitted to attend, and the governor was very unhappy with the RJR manager who had made the decision to uninvite Jasper.
Bill Hobbs, head of Tobacco, complimented his work. Jasper needed five or six men and cars. Jasper moved to the World Headquarters and the head of office layout offered him a space at the back of the building, but Jasper wanted space in front. The layout manager told him that Ty Wilson had both areas tied up and he wanted Jasper to take space in an area out of the building. He had spent $450-500,000 on area and tried to force Jasper to take it. It was near the loading dock. Jasper would not agree. Two days later, the planner called again. That day Jasper gave Ty Wilson a ride and asked Ty about this space. Ty said Jasper should have the space. Eddie Johnson talked with Joe Abely and they had lunch. Abely saw to it that Jasper got the space he wanted.
By this time, the six RJR drivers stayed very busy. This was a racially integrated work force. The drivers worked at the auctioneer contest in Danville, Virginia among other events. Jasper met George H. W. Bush, Shirley Temple, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, O.J. Simpson, Frank Sinatra, and other stars in Palm Springs at the Nabisco Dinah Shore Classic Golf Tournament.
Jasper was in Arizona at a meeting, when he got a call to get Rocco, the Johnsons’ German Shepherd back to Winston-Salem. Rocco had attempted to bite someone and the authorities in California wanted him quarantined. Ross wanted Rocco put on a private plane with no cage. At the moment, RJR had a new Gulfstream in Winston-Salem, and a smaller Falcon that would be available in a few hours. Jasper carried the message, and Chief Pilot Tommy Orrell said, “I’m not sending a multimillion dollar Gulfstream out there for a damn dog,” and he walked in circles, agonizing over the decision. He finally told Jasper that he would send the Gulfstream.
When the headquarters moved, Ross asked Jasper to go to Atlanta with him. For some reason, a couple Winston-Salem executives disapproved the move, and the HR Department told Jasper to get ready to retire in a few days. However, Jasper went to Atlanta to visit Ross. Ross was willing to assist Jasper in buying a home in Atlanta, but Jasper never made the transfer and stayed in Winston-Salem.
After the buyout, Henry Kravis asked Jasper to stay with Paul Sticht. Again, management proposed a salary of only about $40 a week, considering it a part-time job, but Paul Sticht intervened. Jasper continued to work for Mr. Sticht for several years.
Jasper says he had a good career and a good ending.
On acquisitions, Jasper remembers the Budweiser deal. Sticht met with Busch family. 100+ people had to sign. One person refused, and that caused the deal to fall through. This was in early 80s.
Jasper used a limo service out of Palm Beach, FL. The owner supplied limos in any city. Jasper hired as many as 18 cars. The service delivered.[i]
On one occasion in Scottsdale, Joyce Maxwell had a limo service. Jasper needed car service for 75-80 people. He arrived at Joyce’s office. Her drivers said they had a big meeting coming up, and maybe Jasper could get a job as a driver.
He brought her an $8,000 check. Maxwell did not realize she had talked with Jasper. She was embarrassed. She said when you talked to me I thought you were white. “Well here I am.” The drivers’ attitude changed in a matter of minutes.
Mostly I remember Jasper for his personal appearance. He was an extremely handsome man, in his late forties when I was working around him. His car was always immaculate, as was his personal appearance. He hardly looked like a “chauffeur.” His “uniform” was a navy blazer, a rep tie and white shirt, highly polished black wingtip shoes, and gray slacks that looked as though you might could cut you finger on their crease. In short, a fashion plate and a positive ambassador for RJR wherever he was.
It always struck me as humorous that many of the executives Jasper drove were less attentive to their dress and personal appearance. Many times, I am sure strangers wondered why it was Jasper who was driving the car instead of his passenger. GAH.
[i] At the 1982 annual financial conference, RJR had limos available for the attendees, another example of an organization that spared no expense. But I should not be critical. I had invited a consultant from New York to speak at the conference. During a free afternoon, I suggested that we have a driver take us over to Worth Avenue, the high-end retail section of West Palm Beach. I had never seen this famous shopping Mecca.
We arrived in the chauffeured limousine, stopped across the street from Brooks Brothers, and Jim and I got out of the car. Jim was extremely tall and handsome and had a personal presence that attracted attention wherever he went. The combination of my friend and the car we rode in gave me a retail shopping experience that I never had before or since. As we crossed Worth Avenue toward Brooks Brothers, a very tall, attractive young lady came out the shop’s front door. She met us before we reached the street curb and extended her hand to us, welcoming us to Brooks Brothers. We were more or less treated the way I imagined royalty would be treated. I was way out of my element as a North Carolina redneck, but Jim was right at home. As I recall, he bought a couple ties, and as we exited, the young lady gave him her business card with her phone number and invited him to join her for tennis that afternoon.
Again, I’m sure Jim’s presence and our RJR limo had far more to do with my in-store service experience than I did. It is easy to see how RJR people became “addicted” to such luxuries.) GAH