Jess Jr. was charismatic, spontaneous, and imbued with a zest for life. This made his wife, my mother Barbara, very happy, but kept her in suspended apprehension.
She told us the story of their invitation to a party at a prominent home in Oxford. Barbara was nervous, but Jess took great pains to assure her that as district attorney he worked with the host, a judge.
Once they reached the door, Jess turned to Barbara, winked, and said, “Watch this.” Then he rang the bell.
“My heart just sank to my shoes,” she’d say. When the door opened, Jess walked in, raised his arms in the air, and said, “We are trying to have a prayer meeting in the house down the street, and your drunken carryin-ons are disrupting our communion with the Lord God Almighty!”
This being when Mississippi, was dry, the assemblage of well-heeled Oxonians and semi-reputable Ole Miss academics froze. Mother said she could hear the traffic on the Square .
She was about to die when the host stuck his head out the kitchen door and said, “Jess, quit scaring the hell out of everybody, get a drink, and get Barbara one, too. God knows she needs it.”
“I miss him so much,” she’d say.