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J. Ralph Sowell, Jr.

July 3, 1940 November 4, 2021
J. Ralph Sowell, Jr.
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Obituary for J. Ralph Sowell, Jr.

J. Ralph Sowell, Jr., of Jackson, Mississippi, passed away on November 4, 2021, with Gloria, his loving wife of 55 years, and his three beloved daughters, steadfastly by his side.
A visitation will be held at First Baptist Church of Jackson on Sunday, November 7, at 1:00 pm, and a memorial service to celebrate his 81 years of life will follow at 2:30 pm. Burial will take place at Parkway Memorial Cemetery.
Ralph was born on July 3, 1940, in Canton, Mississippi, to parents James Ralph Sowell, Sr. and Hazel Darby Sowell. He grew up in Canton and Greenwood, moved to Jackson, and graduated from Murrah High School. Ralph was a member of Troop 24 in the Boy Scouts, where he received Eagle Scout and Explorer Awards and was named to the Order of the Arrow.
Ralph attended college at Millsaps. He was the Sports Editor, Political Columnist, and Editor for the Purple and White Millsaps newspaper. He was a member of many social organizations, including Omicron Delta Kappa, Circle K, International Relations Club, and Kappa Alpha fraternity. Ralph was the President of the Baptist Student Union, MS Intercollegiate Council, MS Collegiate Press Assn., and he participated in theater as well. He wrote for the Northside Sun and Jackson Daily News, primarily covering sports events. He graduated with a B.A. degree from Millsaps College in 1962.
While teaching Western Civilization at Mississippi College, he met his future wife, Gloria, who was an English professor at MC. He also worked for an advertising and public relations agency in 1962 and served as campaign manager for Troy Watkins for Lt. Governor in 1963, where he traveled the state of Mississippi, writing speeches and news releases. In 1964, Ralph began a 5-year association with Hinds Junior College as Public Relations Director and Chairman of the Journalism Department. He produced the campus newsletter and yearbook while also serving as the school photographer. Ralph also owned Capital City Advertising and Public Relations.
In 1966, Ralph married his sweetheart, Gloria Winstead. In 1967, he received the Distinguished Service Award as “Young Man of the Year” in MS. Ralph was then elected to the Mississippi Legislature – House of Representatives from Hinds County. He attended law school at the Jackson School of Law, graduated with an L.L.B. in 1969 and passed the Bar exam.
Although Ralph had many careers in his lifetime, the most rewarding was probably the printing business that he opened in Jackson, MS, in 1969 – Franklin Printers, Inc. This business provided financial support and stability for his family – a wife and 3 daughters, who were born between 1969 and 1976. Ralph was a perfectionist; as one of his long-time friends recently said, “he never cut any corners.” He had pride in his work and was careful in creating impeccable design and layout. Franklin Printers was honored for its outstanding printing and creativity, capturing numerous awards annually (over 400 total) in the Printing Industry Association of the South (PIAS) and other regional graphic arts competitions. In 1980, Franklin Printers earned the distinction of being the “Best Managed Printing Company” in the country among firms of similar size, by the National Association of Printers & Lithographers. Ralph was named the 1988 Man-of-the-Year by PIAS. In 1996, his business received the Outstanding Small Business award by the Metro Jackson Chamber of Commerce. He served as the President of the Creative Printers of America and the Printing Industry of MS, and was also the Chairman of the Board for PIAS. He was a National Honorary member of Phi Theta Kappa and editor of all publications for approximately 10 years.
Ralph has been active in nonprofit and professional organizations, donating his time and energy to serve in any way he can. He has been the president of several organizations, including the Jackson Junior Chamber of Commerce, Mississippi Jaycees, MS Easter Seal Society, MS Mental Health Association, and Multiple Sclerosis of MS. As president, Ralph advanced these organizations through strong leadership and by making innovative changes. For his work, he has received the following awards: Jefferson Davis Award, Outstanding Young Man of Jackson, Outstanding Young Man of Mississippi, and the Hope Chest Award. He was named one of Jackson’s Outstanding Volunteers by Saks Incorporated and Goodwill Industries.
Ralph always had a passion for sports. He was a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum for approximately 7 years, serving on the organizing committee and the original Board of Directors. Ralph was also President of the MS Sports Foundation and Jackson Touchdown Club, and the Chairman of the Sports Hall of Fame Induction.
Ralph never really retired from work; he just worked less in the office and more in the garden. In the 2000’s, Ralph became very interested in growing flowers. He planted a large garden behind his business and began growing daffodils and hybridizing daylilies. He won hundreds of ribbons in flower and photography competitions.
Ralph was a member of First Baptist Church of Jackson for 55 years. He was very active in Sunday School, where he and his wife made lifetime friends. Those friends have provided enormous support for each other throughout the years. Ralph’s number one joy was spending time with family. He loved his wife, 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren so much. He was always so proud of every one of them. He called himself “blessed.”
Ralph is preceded in death by his two brothers, Darby Sowell and Ronald Sowell. Remaining behind to cherish Ralph’s memory is his sister, Judy Lucius, of Baton Rouge, his wife Gloria, and their three children – Karen Thomas of Madison, Stephanie Bishop (Robbie) of Ocean Springs, and Lori Sowell of Madison. Ralph also leaves behind five adored grandchildren, who loved him dearly in return: Abbie Grace, Cole, Blake, Bryce, and Ella.

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Previous Events

Visitation

Sunday

7

Nov

1:00 PM 11/7/2021 1:00:00 PM
Sanctuary of First Baptist Church

431 N State St.
Jackson, MS 39201

Sanctuary of First Baptist Church
431 N State St. Jackson 39201 MS
United States

Funeral Service

Sunday

7

Nov

2:30 PM 11/7/2021 2:30:00 PM
Sanctuary of First Baptist Church

431 N State St.
Jackson, MS 39201

Sanctuary of First Baptist Church
431 N State St. Jackson 39201 MS
United States

Cemetery Details

Location

Parkway Memorial Cemetery Final Resting Place

1161 Highland Colony Pkwy
Ridgeland, MS 39157

1161 Highland Colony Pkwy Ridgeland 39157 MS
United States
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