Article Category: Passions | Pillars | SC34
Jack Backer, The Next Generation

Jack Backer

Posted Wednesday, Mar 23
Written By Todd Harra, CFSP
Southern Calls, Vol. 34, December 2021

At first glance, John Willmott “Jack” Backer, III – age 16, tall, handsome, varsity tennis player and straight-A sophomore at Sayre School in Lexington, Kentucky – appears to be a typical teenager who enjoys tennis and playing guitar, especially Southern gospel and anything by Don Williams, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings or Johnny Cash.

If all goes as he plans, Jack will earn a business degree and then attend John A. Gupton College, the same mortuary school his late grandfather attended, and become a sixth-generation funeral director at Woodfin Funeral Chapels in Murfreesboro and Smyrna, Tennessee.

“Every time I pass his portrait hanging in the hall of our funeral home, I often wonder if my great-great-great grandfather, Luther Rice Jacobs, foresaw his great-great-great grandson following in his footsteps when he established his funeral parlor 130 years ago – or if he knew generations of his family would become undertakers as he had done in 1893,” Jack wondered aloud.

John Willmott “Jack” Backer, III
Woodfin Chapel, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
John Willmott “Jack” Backer, III / Woodfin Chapel, Murfreesboro, Tennessee


But to get the whole story, let’s look back to the beginning of this outstanding youngster’s journey.

“I was 8 years old when I experienced death for the first time. Then, within a year or two, several of my favorite people died,” he remembered. “My dad’s best friend had a horse farm out in the country. Our phone rang. There had been an accident. I remember my mother leaving in a big hurry. It was pouring rain. As I was to learn later, when my mom arrived at the farm, she saw my dad, our friend Stuart, and then the coroner’s van.”

Jack’s godparent, Christine, had been killed in a horseback riding accident.

The remainder of this article is reserved for subscribers only

In addition to receiving all of our quarterly magazines by mail, subscribers to Southern Calls have exclusive access to additional online articles, as well as ability to read all Southern Calls magazine articles as they come available.

Get your One Year or Two Year subscription today, or login here to continue viewing the rest of the article. 

Southern Calls Volume 34, December 2021 Issue

Order this issue

Southern Calls Issue 34

In stock

Articles Relating to Issue 34

Stevens Mortuary

Stevens Mortuary

Stevens Mortuary occupies the historic Cedar Grove estate nestled in north Knoxville, Tennessee. When one arrives at the mortuary, surrounded by flowering dogwood trees, the stately antebellum era house, with wide, inviting porches, is reminiscent of a simpler time…

Kenneth W. Poe

Kenneth W. Poe

First generation funeral directors are fearless. With either none or very little familial connection to a funeral home, stories vary widely as to what initial interest or curiosity eventually evolved into a career. Dinner disruptions, missed family gatherings, working…

Issue 34 Available Now!

Issue 34 Available Now!

Join us as we wrap up another year, and while deliveries of everything around the world are apparently delayed off the coast of San Diego, we’re bringing you best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a loaded December issue sure to satisfy. At 68, and proving…

Other Recent Articles

Issue 38 Available for Pre-Order!

Issue 38 Available for Pre-Order!

Featuring our exclusive article with the staff from Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home on the tragedy at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, Southern Calls Issue 38 brings you the details from a funeral director's perspective. And, as always, our December issue of Southern...

read more
Issue 37 Available Now!

Issue 37 Available Now!

What a unique collection of articles we have put together for our September issue -- read about the extraordinary details of the life and death of the world famous P.T. Barnum and his friend and performer General Tom Thumb, with lots of interesting facts and images...

read more
Jim Kurtz

Jim Kurtz

We probably have never met, but you may have seen me before. I was that little guy watching funerals from the steps of the Catholic school across the street from Galloway & Sons Funeral Home in Beeville, Texas. I especially loved seeing the big cars that led the...

read more
Bibber Memorial Chapel

Bibber Memorial Chapel

The air smells briny and gulls caw overhead. In the distance, against the backdrop of an iron-colored horizon, a few hearty lobstermen trawl the sea, braving the frigid temperatures. It’s snowing again, but that’s not newsworthy. It’s winter in Maine. Three miles up...

read more
Rhonda Keyes Pleasants

Rhonda Keyes Pleasants

Before reading any further, pause for a moment and reflect on your career, regardless of your age or your job title. Reminisce about opportunities that were afforded to you, both past and present. Consider equally decisions you made with the excitement of future...

read more
Issue 36 Available Now!

Issue 36 Available Now!

See the beauty and honor of the funeral profession reflected through a father’s eyes as he documents the passing of his beloved son – every funeral director should own this issue. Mitchell’s Journey is a moving tribute to unconditional love as a grieving family...

read more

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter to periodically receive article updates, industry news, and details about new issues before they are released.

The Magazine