Billy Gene Jackson Remembered; Memorial Saturday at 1pm - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Billy Gene Jackson Remembered; Memorial Saturday at 1pm

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SALISBURY, MD - Giving kids "a chance" was one of the mottos of the late Billie Gene Jackson, Sr. A Salisbury icon, and champion for civil rights of all people, Jackson who passed away on May 19, was a mentor to so many of the eastern Shore's youth. Toussaint James, a graduate of Wi-Hi, who went on to an athletic career at Boston University says Jackson got him started. " I met Mr. Jackson in 1969, and he encouraged me to get involved with sports. And, initially, I was terrible in everything. But he continued to encourage me, and within three years I had become an all-star in baseball, football and become a national champion in track and field", said James on Friday.

Whether as a track coach, basketball coach or football coach, Iris Wright-Hart said Billy Jackson's belief in people is what inspired so many. "We ran a whole lot of track meets, and we brought trophy after trophy after trophy. And it kept us off the streets", she said. "And that no child behind meant that if we weren't awake, or still asleep, he would knock on the door and knock on the door until he got everybody that he wanted to go to that track meet."

Jackson, the father of four, was also said to be a terrific dad according to April Jackson,  who is following in his "activist" footsteps as member of the Salisbury Advisory Council on Youth Activities.  "I  heard so many people say they thank us for not being selfish for my father spending time with other children. But we couldn't be cause our father taught us not to be that way."

Jackson was a member of the Democratic Central Committee,  and a big part of the drive to elect the first African-American to Salisbury's city council. Jerry West worked for Jackson at the Lake Street Playground, "He had a great influence on how to make decisions, how to treat people, and how to help people. It motivated me to just think not only of myself, but think in relationship to the whole community, and how I could grow through that."

And because of his accomplishments throughout the community, in 2003, Wicomico County re-named North Lake Park to Billy Gene Jackson Park. For "Mister Billy", as he was known around town,  he was always about the kids, as he told us in this 2003 interview. " One of the most enjoyable experiences that i had is to see young men and women think something of themselves", said Jackson.

Carla Taylor was one of hundreds of kids on Salisbury's West side that ran for Jackson's Lake Street Sprinters track club.  Taylor remembers, "He had his points when he was hard on you because you needed that guidance. You needed that push because you never forget the highs and the lows that you go through. He made you believe there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and he urged you to just keep pushing."

Billy Gene Jackson, Sr. passed away on May 19 in West Palm Beach, Florida at the age of 77.

A full memorial for Jackson is set for 1pm Saturday June 6 at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center in Salisbury.

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