SALISBURY, Md. -- Much of the Salisbury community is mourning the death of political activist and youth mentor Billy Gene Jackson, Sr. who passed away Tuesday night.
Shirley Dashiells worked alongside Jackson for 26 years on the Salisbury Advisory Council on Youth Activities.
"To put it in a nutshell, I would say that Billy Gene Jackson was a Christian man. He was a task master. He was a hardworking person and he was a striver," said Dashiells.
Jackson served his community well, from coaching a Salvation Army Youth football team to starting a community activist group. That group, called New Direction for Political and Social Change on the Eastern, would later change Salisbury's electoral system.
Though a devoted advocate for the black community of Salisbury, many might say stronger than his passion for activism was Jackson's love for teaching the city's youth.
Dashiells recalls Jackson's tough-love approach to mentoring.
"He knew what he expected out of young people, and he set high standards for them," said Dashiells. "And a lot of them, even though it was rigorous, they thanked him."
And for the number of boys and girls without a father at home, Dashiells says Jackson always rose to the occasion to fill that void.
"To those kids who did not have a two-parent or lived in single parent households, he was like a mentor, a father, a father figure, an uncle. Whatever it demanded him of being a man," she said.
Jackson passed away Tuesday May 19 in his West Palm Beach, Fl. home. He was 77.
"Everybody's family to him. I can't imagine what his memory will be like," said Dashiells.