Jack Irion Pickren died quietly in his sleep on Aug. 15, 2016. He was 81 years old.
Jack Irion Pickren died quietly in his sleep on Aug. 15, 2016. He was 81 years old. He is preceded in death by his father, Jack Irion Pickren Sr. (1937), his mother Vina Lela DePriest Pickren (1976), and his brother Eugene (1990). He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Eva Pickren, as well as his three sons and daughters-in-law: John and Mariapia of Dallas, Jim and Mirasol of Reno, and David and Julie of Pearland. He also had two grandchildren, Miles and Tyler, and two step-grandchildren, Dylan and Tierra. He is also survived by hundreds, and maybe thousands of people, young and old, that were touched by his giving heart and benevolent personality.
Jack was an active part of the early South Belt, Texas, community while living there for 37 years. Sagemont, Texas, was where he spent a good part of his adult life raising three sons, but he was also an avid traveler. He had traveled to all 50 states in the U.S., along with dozens of other countries around the world. In his life, he would be a newspaper boy, a mill worker, oil roughneck, youth minister, chaplain, writer, airplane analyst, computer programmer, physicist, lawyer, deacon, county clerk, state judge, county judge, college vice-president, and finally retire as a high school teacher.
Jack had an incredible life. Born in 1935, Jack’s father died when he was only 2 years old. His mother took him to Shawnee to be near family and rear him and his brother, Eugene in the country.
At age 5, he was raking people’s yards for one penny, and by 11, he was delivering The Shawnee News-Star each day. When he was in high school, his mother decided to move to California for work. Jack wanted to graduate with his friends, so he stayed behind and lived in an abandoned house with no electricity, heat, or water. He survived any way he could, working hard, and being blessed by God through many generous people in the area.
Jack graduated from Shawnee High School in 1953. He then went to Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), which was also located in Shawnee. Having no one to support him, he had to work to make enough money to stay in school. He worked in the oil fields as a roughneck, but in 1956 he got a job in Los Angeles working for Lockheed Aircraft on the F-104 fighter jet. Being a devout Christian, Jack also worked as a youth director at the local Baptist Church. Here he met Eva Rae Wagner, whom he would court for the next couple of years. He left Lockheed after a year and joined the Army Reserves based at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, where he served as a chaplain. After reserve training, he returned to OBU. During this time, he continued to write his true love daily.
While a senior at OBU, Jack returned to Los Angeles to marry Eva upon her graduating from high school. They were married in March 1958. For their honeymoon, they drove back to Shawnee so Jack could complete his Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics and physics. He got a job as the night chemist at the mill to provide for his family.
Upon completion of his degrees, Jack was hired by Lockheed Missiles and Space in Sunnyvale, Calif., to become something new to the industry… a computer programmer. He rose quickly up the ranks due to his problem-solving skills, and worked on several defense projects including the guidance systems for the Polaris missile. When Lockheed got involved in the manned space program, Jack was the obvious choice to lead the group to program the trajectories to the moon, medical systems, etc. Working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center is what brought the Pickren family to Houston in 1965. By this time, he had two boys, John (1960) and Jim (1962). In 1967, the Pickren family would add one more boy, David.
While working full time at NASA, Jack decided to pursue a law degree at the University of Houston. After three years of night school, he received his Doctors of Jurisprudence in 1969. Through social connections, he met the district clerk of Harris County.
Because of his computer, management and legal skills, he was the perfect fit for a new project – converting the entire Harris County Court system from paper and ink to the computer age.
From here, Jack become the first judge of the newly created 334th District Court, and then later the first judge of the newly created County Criminal Court 11. After leaving the judgeship, he would become vice president of legal affairs at Dallas Baptist University. In classic fashion, within months at the school, he was able to rectify some financial issues that would eventually lead the university out of debt.
Throughout his life, Jack had always wanted to teach teenagers. So the last years of his career, he finally made it to the classroom. Since he did not know what positions would be open, he got certified to teach math, science, English, computers, and history. He ended up teaching, what else, math, physics, and computer science. With his summers off, he also got to participate in something he had dreamed of doing… hiking. He and his sons backpacked through the Grand Canyon through 114 degree heat, and also traveled through 100 miles of backcountry in Yosemite National Park. He retired from Pasadena ISD in 1999.
He moved back to his hometown of Shawnee in 2002. There, along with his wife Eva, he enjoyed getting together with old high school and university buddies from the 50s. He traveled extensively to myriads of places like Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, and many other spots. Sometimes this was with family, but always with Eva.
He made it back to Houston in 2015, where he moved in next door to David and Julie, and his two grandsons.
There was a celebration of his life at 3 p.m., Sept. 17, 2016, at Sagemont Church.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be given in his name to Youth-Reach Houston at http://www.yrhouston.org. This is a ministry that Jack helped start back in 1984 that helps troubled youth develop strong character and responsibility in a Christ-focused residential environment.