A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, long-time denizen of Winter Haven, Florida and 47-year resident of metro Atlanta, Georgia, Fil Jessee’s writing ability and choice of subject matter are shaped by his love of nature, gardening, travel and people with interesting experiences to share. (Fil, incidentally, is short for the middle-name Fillmore.) His receipt of the Florida Department of Fish & Game’s first Natural Sciences Award, the Ridge Art Association’s Outstanding Senior in Art trophy and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy Speech Award just prior to graduating high school make it evident that, from an early age, Fil’s professional life was enhanced by an assortment of creative talents.
Initially, he considered this diversity of interests and abilities to be both blessing and curse. “It was very difficult for me to settle into a single pastime for the rest of my adulthood,” he noted. Consequently, after graduating from Oglethorpe University in January of 1969 with a Bachelor’s Degree in liberal arts, he found the development of his working history governed more by fate than by choice.
Yet, writing proved to be a common thread. Fil was first employed as a cub reporter for a newspaper publishing company based in Decatur, Georgia and through this apprenticeship under two editors had the opportunity to learn and perfect standard journalism skills. Less than a year later, the Ga. State Merit System judged this experience equivalent to a journalism degree, permitting Fil’s hiring as a public relations specialist for the Ga. Department of State Parks.
Four years later, his unexpected selection by Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Line as one of fifteen press guests invited to cover the fourteen-day inaugural cruise of the M/S Southward from Miami to Venezuela opened a whole new world of exploration and adventure for Fil.
He parted company with the State Parks Dept. to establish his own p.r. firm and to launch a series of garden, travel and entertainment-oriented columns in five Southeast regional magazines, two Atlanta-based newspapers and the Camera Ready Travel News syndicate. And the accolades which followed included awards from Travel Industry Associates of Georgia, the Atlanta Women’s Chamber of Commerce, appointment as Honorary Consul of Grenada, and a knighthood in the Sovereign Greek Order of St. Dennis.
As an early spinoff to his special events produced for shopping center developers, Fil founded a then unique talent agency specializing in celebrity impersonators and tribute artists, the first of its kind in Georgia and many other eastern states. He later added the distinction of Georgia Certified Plant Professional working as a sales horticulturist with Pike Family Nurseries. Now semi-retired, Fil recently completed a five-year stint with the Braselton News as author of Gardener’s Grapevine and In Focus with Fil which, with expanded readership and demographics, will continue in this blog.