This memorial plaza honors the memory of four great men from Jackson: M. D. Anderson, Will Clayton, Frank Anderson and Ben Clayton. The M. D. Anderson Memorial Plaza Bill was presented to Congress by Congressman Steven Fincher and approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama on January 3, 2012. While the plaza is named in honor of one of Jackson’s most famous natives, M.D. Anderson, the nine-foot, granite monolith honors not only Anderson, but also Will Clayton, former Secretary of Commerce and Assistant Secretary of State under President Roosevelt and “Father of the Marshall Plan'' as well as Ben Clayton and Frank Anderson.
These four Jackson natives lead the way nationally in the cotton industry and turned a business that began on the corner of Highland Avenue and Baltimore into the largest cotton trading company in the world. By the year of 1929 Anderson, Clayton & Company had offices in Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, England, Mexico, France, Italy and Germany to continue their lead in the cotton industry. By 1935 the company was literally a global merchandiser of cotton. M. D. Anderson, a Jackson banker and later President of the Anderson, Clayton & Company in Houston, Texas became one of the richest men in America during the early 1900’s. As the company grew it was necessary for Frank Anderson and Will Clayton to ask M. D. to move to Houston in order to be near larger banks and deeper ports. With this move to Houston, Anderson, Clayton & Company soon became the largest cotton merchandiser in the world. Upon his death in 1939, his foundation became the recipient of the largest bequest in Texas history.
Not only was Jackson native Will Clayton vital to the success of Anderson, Clayton & Company, but was also involved in the Roosevelt administration. He served as Secretary of Commerce and Assistant Secretary of State. Upon visiting war-torn Europe, he became the author of the Marshall Plan. Frank E. Anderson, brother of M. D. Anderson, was a local cotton merchant with his office at the corner of Baltimore and Highland in the late 1880’s. Frank married Burdine Clayton, sister of Will Clayton. Will was also in the cotton business in St. Louis and New York City. In 1904 Frank and Will moved to Oklahoma City where cotton grew bountifully. In 1907 the company became so successful that the men needed a partner to help finance the expansion of their company to Houston. To meet this need M. D. gave up his banking career to move the company to Houston. Ben Clayton, another Jackson native, was involved in the growth of Anderson, Clayton & Company. He was responsible for the development of the overseas shipping operation. Eventually he left the company and formed the Clayton Foundation Research which generously supported the University of Texas at Austin. He founded the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas at Austin in 1940. Ben Clayton died at the age of 96 in 1978.