Community mourns passing of Billy Gene Jackson Sr.

 

Billy Gene

A few decades ago, TV news anchor Paul Butler was a shy 10-year-old who didn’t say much.

“I was a skinny kid and not much of an athlete, but Mr. Billy convinced me to keep trying. He said, ‘That’s OK, Paul. It doesn’t matter. What matters is your heart,’” Butler said, referring to longtime coach Billy Gene Jackson Sr., who died Tuesday in Florida. He was 77.

“I thought, ‘If Mr. Billy thinks I can do it, then I can do it.’ He inspired me,” Butler said.

Jackson’s daughter, April Jackson, of Salisbury, followed in her father’s footsteps and is now president of the Salisbury Advisory Council on Youth Activities, as he was.

Jackson said her father coached a track team, was director of the Lake Street Playground, started a local activist group and, in the 1970s, sued the city for redistricting and won.

An employee of C&P Telephone, then AT&T, Jackson retired and moved to his native Florida in 1989.

With four children, Jackson was “the best father any child could ever ask for,” his daughter said.

“He was loving. He was caring.  He not only exhibited that kind of love with  us but to the community and to friends. He had friends far and near,” she said.

And he was a disciplinarian. “I thought it was the meanest thing in the world  but now I understand every one of his morals,” she said.

In Florida, Jackson started a program to give scholarships to students and awarded hundreds of them.

He enjoyed fishing, had three boats and loved being near the water. “He said it gave him peace and serenity. The week before he passed he went to the water,” she said.

“My father and I were very, very close. He  taught me everything I know – politics, sports, how to live, how to treat people. He told me to never look at people as differently, no matter where they came from,” she said, adding  memorial services will be in both Florida and Salisbury, with the date to be announced.

“He was really something in our community,” Butler said, remembering running track and field under Jackson’s encouraging coach’s eye.

Agreeing, family friend Gary Mackes called Jackson “an icon.”

So appreciated were Jackson’s efforts, that a Salisbury park was named for him, and features a walking trail that leads to a fishing pier.

“He was a remarkable person,” his daughter said. “I don’t know anybody didn’t love him.”

 

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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