John A. (Jack) Jackson was born in 1913 in Lufkin, Texas. He lost his father when he was 3 years old, after which he and his mother moved to Dallas. During his childhood, he attended schools in Dallas and Temple and was graduated from high school in 1932 in Hatch, N.M., where he lived with relatives.
After working in the oil fields of East Texas for several years, Jackson entered The University of Texas at Austin, but was soon advised by Dean Arno Nowotny to attend Temple Junior College. There, in 1936, he met Katherine (Katie) Graeter, who later became his wife and life's partner. After two years, he returned to The University of Texas at Austin, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1940 in geology with double minors in mathematics and anthropology. At The University of Texas at Austin, he was an ardent and accomplished softball and baseball pitcher and participated on championship teams.
Following graduation, Jackson began executive training with the Arkansas Fuel Oil Co. in Shreveport, La., but left to join the Navy after the outbreak of World War II. Within a few months, he was placed on special orders to work with the U.S. Geological Survey in the Arkansas bauxite fields, the only source of desperately need aluminum ore then under control of the United States government.
After the war, Jackson worked in South Texas for Arkansas Fuel, but soon moved to Dallas to become an independent geological consultant. Later, having formed a partnership with Ellison Miles, he discovered the great Boonsville Field in Wise County, Texas. This success allowed Jackson to form his own company and become its sole owner. He named it Katie Petroleum in honor of his wife. He left the oil and gas discovery business in 1960 to spend more time with Katie and began focusing his professional energies on oil and gas management, real estate, investments and philanthropy.
The Jacksons have always been generous with their resources. At Texas Lutheran College in Seguin, where Katie Jackson long served as a regent, they provided support for scholarship programs and funds for the construction of an auditorium bearing their names. In Dallas, they donated land and supported constructions for the Presbyterian Hospital. They also were major contributors for municipal libraries in Decatur and Bridgeport, Texas.
At The University of Texas at Austin, Jackson and his late wife have been extraordinarily generous supporters, especially to the Ex-Students' Association and the Geology Foundation. Jackson is an honorary life member of the Advisory Council of the Geology Foundation, where he has been an active member since 1975. In the foundation, the Jacksons endowed the Jackson teaching Fellowship, the Jackson Fellowship in Geohydrology and the Jackson Fellowship in Exploration Geophysics. In 2000, the Jacksons provided a gift of $15 million to expand the existing Geology Building, but Katie Jackson died just before the groundbreaking for the new building. In 2001, Jackson provided a gift (or an investment as he prefers to call it) to the university to support the John A. and Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences, which The University of Texas System Board of Regents established and named for him and Katie in July 2001.
Jackson is a life member of the Chancellor's Council and a member of The University of Texas at Austin College of Natural Sciences Hall of Honor. He is a long-time member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.