Buena Vista, Ga- Before Roosevelt Jackson’s death on May 5, he was known by many as the oldest living player, manager and scout of The Negro Baseball League. Born in Gay, Georgia in 1917-he filled 100 years of life in service to others-on and off the baseball field, which was no easy feat as the grandson of slaves. News 3 sat down with one of his eight children to learn more about the man who continues to draw applause even as he slides into his forever home.
Inside her Buena Vista apartment, siblings Brandy and Lavelt Jackson flip through pages of a book chronicling the life and career of their late father Roosevelt Jackson. A man who had no formal education and declared legally blind in his later years-was never supposed to taste the sweetness of success. But he found it in the Negro Baseball League.
“My dad lived to be 100 years old and not too many people that we know have made it to be one hundred,” says Lavelt Jackson.
Although Jackson says it was becoming clear to both his dad and the family that the end was near.
“My sister before they left, she did a prayer and when she prayed that day, it was like we knew what was coming,” says Jackson.
Despite his father’s age, Jackson’s says he remained strong and mentally aware until the very end.
“Every time we asked him if there was anything wrong with him he’d always say, God gave me breath and strength and there’s a whole lot of other people in worst shape than him,” says Jackson.
Determination and street smarts were also gifts from God, especially during a time when Negro baseball players were denied entry into the major leagues. And when looking in the wrong direction could get one lynched, Jackson recalls his father saying.
“Back in the day when a black man couldn’t even look at a white woman. If you looked at them directly in the eyes you were subjected to getting lynched,” says Jackson. “When you walked back in those days and you see people of other colors, you hold your head down.”
But there were moments in Roosevelt Jackson’s long life where he got to hold his head up high-Jackie Robinson integrating baseball and the election of Barack Obama.
“That was the proudest moment of his life. He said he waited 91 years to see a black president. And he sent Mr. Barack Obama…President Barack Obama, $91 to help his campaign out in a letter, and he was telling him all the years he waited to see this day.
For Roosevelt Jackson, President Obama’s election was the fulfillment of America’s promise long denied people of color. And a testament to the power of education, which was the message he consistently gave to young people.
“Make sure to get a good education, because an education is like a rainbow, it has no end.”
And neither does Roosevelt Jackson’s legacy.