Buz Lowry isn’t waiting around for “them” to do something.
Nor does the 68-year-old Jacksonian believe civic pride is a job left to city workers.
From his home at the corner of Meadowbrook Road and Henderson Circle — built by his grandfather in 1940 — Lowry surveys the cleanest six-block stretch in town, all thanks to his 43-year long habit.
An Ole Miss graduate and longtime banking industry veteran, Lowry and his wife, Ann, moved here in 1976 after his grandmother died. An appraiser of the property told him he was about as far west as he really should go. But the house had sentimental value.
Lowry was an avid runner, logging three or four miles a day. That’s when he noticed how trashy Meadowbrook Road was.
“I’d go for a run then I’d pick up trash by hand during my cool down, between here and Crane Boulevard,” he recalled of the short stretch. “As time went on, I stuck a plastic grocery bag in my back pocket and picked up more.”
He said his son’s friends, poking a bit of good-natured fun, bought him a pointed stick to stab at the trash. Then came one with grabbers, alleviating back pain. Lowry soon expanded to a 55-gallon trash bag, but the wind proved too tough a foe. He’s been using a red five-gallon bucket for 30 years.
“Three blocks that way and three that way, from Meadowhill Drive to Childress Road, both sides” Lowry explained of his territory.
“Everyone knows me, but they don’t know who I am. They say, ‘who is that fool?’
Lowry said people are perplexed when they see him in the street collecting rubbish and, for the last many years, blowing leaves. “’Is he looking for recycling or what?’” they might wonder. “None of the above,” he retorted.
Traffic on Meadowbrook has doubled, especially since the State Street detour, Lowry has observed. And so has the trash.
“It’s easily an hour a day, more when I’m blowing leaves,” he said of the time it takes. “I don’t really keep up with it. But I just know, you can’t let it go… you have to do garbage every day, a five-gallon bucket, times two.”
People sometimes slow — or even stop, and let Lowry know they’re praying for him.
“It gets to you,” he said of his “fans.”
“I have regulars who honk because they appreciate it.”
Lowry mentioned how his property values have increased in the last 40 plus years.
He points to the development of The Barrington, the effect of Mike Peters’ hand on the downtown Fondren historic district and the explosive growth of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
“Nobody,” he said, “questions the viability of the long-term trajectory of Fondren anymore.”
Lowry thinks his efforts are, in some small way, helpful in showing the North Fondren area as acceptable now, unlike 43 years ago when the appraiser raised eyebrows.
“I don’t know that you would say, ‘I bought this house or that house (near Meadowbrook) because of that fool picking up garbage,’ but it had to have had some effect when you were looking,” Lowry said. “‘I like this neighborhood,’ people might say. ‘They get out and walk, so that tells me this is a good neighborhood. It looks (clean).’ Keeping it clean has had some psychological impact, or at least I’d like to believe it has.”
But litter control: isn’t that the city’s job?
“The city can’t do everything,” he said. “No city can.”
Lowry is quick to take ownership.
“This is my neighborhood. I love this neighborhood. Crime, potholes, sure, they’re discouraging. But it’s like a batter who’s zero for 24: when he hits it, it’s going to be glorious. Jackson’s going to regain its place someday.”
What would make Lowry stop?
“Nothing,” he laughed. “Unless I get run over. And then I’ll do it from my wheelchair.”
“My dad used to say, ‘It doesn’t take but 10 percent more to go first-class.’ I consider this my contribution.”