Ever since he hit the big time in the early 1990s, Alan Jackson has won over legions of fans with his own mix of country music and honky tonk. But, of course, Jackson’s fame and fortune haven’t made him immune to heartbreak. And that became plain in 2018, when the singer/songwriter experienced a tragedy that may very well have devastated his family.
Born in Georgia in 1958, Jackson pursued his penchant for music from a young age, with the future star having formed his own band after leaving high school. And, ultimately, the aspiring musician decided to relocate to Nashville to best pursue his dream.
That move to the home of country music proved to be a wise one, too, as Jackson subsequently made the connections needed to enable him to nab a record deal. Then in 1990 the singer/songwriter received his first taste of success, when his single “Here in the Real World” entered the top three of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. And this hit in turn proved to be the first of many.
Jackson now has 16 albums to his name as well as three greatest hits collections, two Christmas records and even two gospel albums. His records have sold by the truckload, too: as of 2019, the star can boast of having shifted 80 million units across the world. And that’s not even to mention Jackson’s numerous Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association and Grammy awards, nor his entry into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Along the way, Alan has usually been clad in his trademark cowboy hats and denim and sporting a sandy mustache. But refreshing his look has never seemed to be one of his priorities. He’s the small-town guy who hit the big time, after all – an average Joe who just got lucky.
And despite being a big name, Jackson doesn’t seem to be all that enamored with some of the trappings that come with fame, either. Indeed, the biography on the musician’s website claims that he is ultimately “a quiet, reserved man who can be uncomfortable with public attention and the media spotlight.” In the program for the 2017 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony, Jackson is also quoted as saying that “[he] never really liked the whole star part of the music business.”
But Jackson is not just a recording legend and dedicated singer/songwriter; he’s also a committed family man. His loyal fans may have been sad to hear, then, that tragedy had struck the Jackson clan – just as they had expanded to welcome a new member, too.
Jackson had grown up as the only boy of five children, and he’s since gone on to have kids of his own with wife Denise. Perhaps proving that girls run in the genes of the Jackson family, the couple share three daughters: Mattie, Alexandra and Dani.
Firstborn Mattie chose not to follow in her father’s footsteps, though; instead, she ultimately went into the food industry as the owner of Nashville bar, market and restaurant Salt & Vine. What’s more, it was her romance with her husband that would come to make headlines – although it was for all the right reasons to begin with.
In 2017 Mattie revealed to Southern Bride that she and her future spouse had first “met at a mutual friends’ wedding” – but their encounter hadn’t exactly been love at first sight. “I just remember dancing with a cute guy and never thinking about him after,” she admitted.
So who was this mysterious man who would eventually feature so prominently in Mattie’s life? His name was Samuel Benton Selecman, although he was known to many as Ben. He was undoubtedly a good prospect and was destined to enter the legal profession, but Mattie seemingly hadn’t given him a second thought.
It wasn’t until a few years after their first meeting, in fact, that the pair came into contact again. In the interim, Ben had been studying hard at law school. Then, during his summer break, he began working for a Nashville judge in order to gain legal experience – meaning he wasn’t too far from Mattie.
And, apparently, Ben knew that there was something special between him and Mattie. He was persistent in his efforts to pursue her, too. “He asked me out, and I said no, but he didn’t give up,” Mattie later recalled to Southern Bride. So, the pair eventually began dating. Then, on October 7, 2017, Mattie and Ben became the couple now tying the knot.
Southern Bride covered the couple’s luxurious wedding, which had a green-and-gray theme to complement the season in which the ceremony took place. And when talking to the magazine, Mattie would describe the day as a “dream” and “a fairytale.”
Judging by the manner in which Mattie expressed her memories of the big event, too, it appeared as though the rest of the world had just fallen away when she and her groom were tying the knot. “The ceremony felt surprisingly personal, like it was just us,” she explained. The bride added that the “reception was better than any party we’ve ever been to.”
And Mattie went on to describe one particular moment that had helped to make the day so special. She revealed to Southern Bride, “One of our favorite memories was popping a vintage 2006 bottle of Tattinger’s Comtes de Champagne – a bottle they only make in the best years. We’re looking forward to opening another from the 2006 vintage on our tenth anniversary.”
Meanwhile, after the newlyweds had taken to the dancefloor during their reception, they had stunned guests with their choreography to the song “Blue Blooded Woman.” And as Jackson fans may have already surmised, that soundtrack wasn’t chosen at random.
You see, “Blue Blooded Woman” is one of Jackson’s first tunes to have been played on the radio. And, naturally, Mattie’s devoted dad sang on her big day – performing with his black bow tie removed but with his signature hat all present and correct.
When talking to Southern Bride, however, Mattie described the “ominous clouds that held back the rain” on the afternoon of her wedding. It may have been a sign, perhaps, of the tragedy that would ultimately befall their union.
Still, at first, there was the honeymoon, for which Mattie and Ben flew to an island paradise in the Seychelles and then went on safari in South Africa. There, the newlyweds spent quality time together, indulging in their favorite hobbies and beginning married life in style.
Then, after the couple’s return, Ben forged a life for himself in Mattie’s hometown as an assistant district attorney. Ben had by now graduated from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and had established himself as being somewhat of “a rising star,” as Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk revealed to The Tennessean in September 2018.
But the couple weren’t granted long to revel in any sense of normality or the comforts of marriage. That’s because Ben subsequently went to Jupiter in Florida, where the fairytale unfortunately came to an abrupt and tragic end.
Ben was in the Palm Beach County town on September 12, 2018, and at the time he may have enjoyed the sunshine on the shore. Then, on the docks, an accident occurred that ultimately had devastating consequences for the married man.
On that day, Ben had been assisting a lady who had been making her way onto a boat. But in helping her, he presumably lost his balance and either fell or slipped on the dock. Whatever happened, Ben hit his head. And the injuries that resulted ultimately cost him his life.
Tragically, then, Mattie was suddenly widowed. And the Jackson and Selecman families were seemingly united in their grief; through Alan Jackson’s website, both parties joined together to request “prayers during this difficult time.”
Ben’s passing at the age of just 28 also adds an extra layer of poignancy to the wedding video that Southern Bride uploaded to YouTube only months before the groom’s death. In the clip, both Ben and Mattie are seen talking on camera about their feelings for each other. And, in retrospect, their comments are heartrending.
The footage shows Ben celebrating with his groomsmen as well as kissing his bride and holding her hand. “I’m fired up. Let’s do this. Let’s have a blast and grow a family and make everything so precious, each and every day,” he says to his wife.
And Mattie’s sentiments are equally touching. “I needed a cheerleader and somebody to remind me how fun life is supposed to be,” she says in the video. “And that the people you love are the ones that need to be there and be the priority. And I can’t wait to teach that to our kids… I love you so much.”
Meanwhile, comments below the YouTube clip mourned Ben’s untimely death, with one individual calling the news “an absolute tragedy.” A fellow commenter expressed their sorrow by writing of Ben, “[He was] gone too soon for sure,” while another revealed that she was “sitting… in a lake of tears” in light of the loss.
And District Attorney Funk would also pay tribute to his late colleague. When speaking to The Tennessean, Funk explained that he was “thankful for every day that Ben had the opportunity to serve the people of Davidson County,” adding of Ben, “He will be truly missed.”
But, of course, the Jackson and Selecman families would have felt Ben’s passing the most. And Jackson himself is no stranger to heartache. He has even addressed tragedy in his work: the single “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” evokes the events of 9/11, for example.
Then, just a month after Ben’s death, Jackson reached a major milestone in his life. He turned 60, and some of his fans were quick to congratulate the entertainer on his special day. Posting on Facebook, one of Jackson’s admirers wrote to the musician, “Have a wonderful day and do something fun with your family. You bring such joy to all of us with your music, [and] you deserve a special day for yourself!”
Yet understandably the passing of Alan’s son-in-law remained in one fan’s thoughts. Along with their birthday wishes, they wrote, “Hope your daughter is taking [it] a day at a time with her loss. May God continue to comfort and give [your] family peace.”
And Mattie herself would also take to Facebook to reminisce on her big day. In October 2018 she uploaded a photo of Ben and herself embracing while dressed in their wedding outfits. Alongside the image, she wrote, “Missing you, big. Loving you, always. Blessed beyond measure to have known your soul.”
To make matters worse still, Mattie’s Salt & Vine restaurant shut down in June 2018. “In the past four months, I have closed a business I loved and lost the husband I cherished,” Mattie wrote on her Facebook page in October 2018.
Nevertheless, there was a note of hope in Mattie’s heartrending message. Addressing her followers, she went on to reveal that she would “fill [her followers] in on this amazing mission the Lord has set before [her].” It seemed, then, that her faith had apparently shown her a new path.
And a November 2018 post from Mattie’s dad would further explain the new project that she had embarked upon. Mattie’s NaSHEville movement, Jackson divulged, “gives back to women and orphans in need… turning their great pain into a great purpose.”
Mattie would also bare her soul on the NaSHEville website. In a blog post, she recounted that she had had to “stand before a wedding and a funeral all in the same year.” Mattie’s founder’s bio, too, touches upon what had happened to Ben before adding, “Condolences, cards and ‘I’m sorry’s,’ though always purely and honestly intended, can never heal below surface level.”
Mattie continued, “Only those who have been burned can really walk with you through fire. I am here to walk with all those who have lost husbands [and] lost love. I am here to un-isolate, un-stigmatize and rewrite what our lives as widows can and will be again if we are vulnerable with each other… I am here to share stories of all the women in Nashville – from loss to gain [and] from struggle to success.”
It seems, then, that Ben will not only live on in his widow’s memory but also her new venture. And, hopefully, the work that Mattie is doing will at least mean that some good can come of his death at such a tragically young age.