Hamilton native appointed Texas Secretary of State

Credit: ©BDP, Inc.

Credit: ©BDP, Inc.

Jane Gray Nelson started leading role last week.

Hamilton native Jane Nelson ― or Jane Gray for those who grew up with her in the 1950s and 1960s ― was appointed as Texas’ newest Secretary of State.

She served in the Texas Senate for 30 years ― where, in 2014, she was appointed the first female chair of the Finance Committee in the Texas legislature ― and after she announced she would not seek re-election, was approached by Gov. Greg Abbott for the Secretary of State, a job that is filled by appointment in the Lone Star State.

“It’s something that I just started a week ago, it’s exciting and I’m really, really anxious to dig in,” said the 1969 graduate of Garfield High School.

Among her responsibilities as Secretary of State, Nelson is now the state’s chief elections official. She had served in the Texas Senate on the State Affairs Committee, the committee that addresses all of the state’s election laws issues.

Nelson left Hamilton at 17 years old to go to college at North Texas State University, where she met her husband, J. Michael Nelson. Five years later, they married, and though she’s an “official Texan” with five Texan children and a dozen Texan grandchildren, she’s still a Hamiltonian at heart.

“There are just so many wonderful, wonderful memories of Hamilton growing up,” Nelson, 71, said. “But you always miss the people.”

Some of those people include the then-little girls who she gave baton lessons to as part of the “Jane Gray Twirlettes.” To this day, through social media, her former students talk about the leadership skills they learned from Nelson as little girls some 40 or 50 years later.

Nelson said it was her Hamilton education that she’s carried throughout her entire life, including her several years as a teacher, four years on the Texas State Board of Education, and 30 years in the Texas Senate.

“I had a great education in Hamilton schools ... and I’m very, very grateful for that,” she said. “Hamilton, Ohio was rock solid, just a bedrock of traditional family values. I grew up in a very traditional setting. That’s where I get my values from, was growing up in a town that valued family values. Everybody went to church, we had a good education, and that’s why I am who I am. It was the values I acquired in the community I grew up in.”

Credit: Provided/Texas Secretary of State

Credit: Provided/Texas Secretary of State

She grew up in Lindenwald, in a house on Pleasant Avenue, and she thinks of Americana, that’s what she sees.

“When you close your eyes and think of America and what it stands for, that symbolizes what America is and what I value the most, in my childhood,” Nelson said, adding that memory is why she chose to live in Flower Mound, Texas.

Nelson doesn’t get back to Hamilton very often, especially since she no longer has family in the city, though she last came to town in 2019 for her high school reunion. But when she does come up next, the top of her checklist of places to visit will be Chester’s Pizza with her childhood friends she misses.

“I’m telling you, Chester’s Pizza is what I have dreams about,” Nelson said, adding there’s a Texas Senate proclamation on the restaurant’s wall from Nelson. “It’s my favorite pizza in the whole world.”

But until she gets back in town, she’ll be informed about her beloved hometown from its newspaper online.

“I still read the Journal-News online, so I do keep tabs,” said Nelson, adding she is “excited” about the opening of Spooky Nook, the $165 million mega sports and events complex. “I would love to come and see that place. I wish I had something like that growing up.”

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