Since childhood, Jackie Ladd has been selling Nashville’s newspapers to curious readers.
The Tennessean, the Nashville Banner, and The Contributor: vendor Jackie L. has sold them all, starting his career as a professional newsboy when he was, well, a boy.
“A lawyer named J.D. Norman and his son, Kenny, had an office on Commerce Street,” explains Jackie. “You could go down there, and they’d sell you the papers for five cents each. They kept three cents, and you got two.” (Kenny Norman went on to serve as Davidson County Juvenile Court Clerk in the 1990s.)
Most nights, Jackie ended up with about a quarter in his pocket, and on the way home to East Nashville, he’d stop by the old Vietti Chili place to spend his money on chili and a sandwich.
Growing up here, Jackie attended Caldwell and Kirkpatrick schools before teaching himself construction skills and embarking on a career that served him well for many years.
“I couldn’t stand to be in an office. I’d rather be in the wide open,” Jackie says, pacing his Charlotte Avenue corner and waving to drivers on a warm May day. And mostly, his work in underground utilities — Jackie says he literally knows where everything in Nashville is buried — suited him. Mostly.
“Now, standing on your head down in a ditch gets old,” he says.
He landed at The Contributor when a couple of friends told him about the social enterprise and has been selling from the same location for more than five years.
“I’ve always been interested in the news,” he says. “I know my regulars here, and I wave at every car that goes by. I’ve learned not to stand too close to cars.”
One of the aspects of his Contributor business Jackie most enjoys is the opportunity to spend his days outdoors, walking the streets of his regular neighborhood. After having heart surgery in December and getting a couple of stents placed, Jackie says his cardiologist suggested he get more exercise.
“He said that was the best thing for me, and I told him, ‘Man, I’m walking this whole area every day!'"