It is hard to think of Sampson County and Clinton without thinking of Billy Ray Jordan.
It is hard to picture an Alive After Five, an Arts Council event, an Agri-Exposition Center concert, a restaurant opening or any of an array of fund-raisings without seeing Jordan’s smiling face among the crowd, holding court, laughing, talking and inspiring whoever was within the sound of his voice.
It’s hard to imagine a church service at Grove Park Baptist Church where Jordan wasn’t sitting in the pew or a new business opening at Shamrock or Jordan shopping centers where he wasn’t front and center talking about the importance of advertising in the local newspaper.
Billy Ray Jordan seemed to be involved in every aspect of Sampson County life, and our county and every person he came in contact with over the course of his 81 years is richer because of it.
His actions through the years inspired others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more. That made him a leader and someone to be admired.
A savvy businessman and developer, Jordan, along with his father and brother, founded and began Jordan Shopping Center, Clinton’s first strip shopping center in 1958. That was the beginning of a long business career for the Clinton native, who also opened Jordan Feed & Seed and Jordan Hardware, expanded the Jordan center and, after selling it in 1997 to Paramount Foods, became director of real estate for that company. He, along with his family, also, owned and managed Jordan Farms and Jordan Insurance Agency.
It is no stretch to say that Jordan was responsible for bringing over 20 businesses into Clinton, all which he supported and touted at every turn.
But businessman was only one of the hats Jordan wore. Active in every sense of the word, he was a staunch community supporter and leader, serving on a plethora of boards and committees throughout the course of his life, including being an active member of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce for 58 years. Impressive to say the least.
He loved this community. There is no doubt about that. And he worked hard every day to ensure that it grew and prospered as he believed it should.
Not one to mince words, Jordan was always quick to expound on his beliefs, but never without being willing to put action behind his words. He was never one to tell someone else how to make things happen without being the first one to volunteer to help make it so.
You saw that in his business dealings, in his personal life and in the way he loved and worked for his church, Grove Park Baptist. As a deacon, Sunday school teacher, choir member and church leader in many capacities, Jordan gave his all to the projects put before him. And his faith was always evident.
Quick-witted and affable, Billy Ray Jordan was just someone you easily gravitated toward, wanted to learn from and respected. What you saw was who he was, day in and day out. And being around him just made you feel better — about yourself, about humanity and about life, itself.
He loved life and he lived it to its fullest every single day. And he loved his family, always talking with pride of his sons, Dean and Ray, and their families, and of the love of his life, his beloved wife Janet, who could always be found by his side.
With Jordan’s passing last Friday, all those who knew him took a collective deep breath, saddened by the loss of someone so full of live, someone so much a part of our community.
But because Jordan was so much a part of nearly ever facet of life in Sampson County, it will be a very long time, if ever, that we think about Sampson County and Clinton without thinking of him, seeing his smiling face and remembering the champion he was for the community he loved.