A Tribute To TJ
I'm sure anyone who had the privilege to know Trent Jackson (TJ) has some words to share with regards to the impression or influence he made on their life. I'm blessed to have had such an experience.
I ran in TJ's shadow during my brief high school career, while pursuing one of his greatest athletic accomplishments (tying Jesse Owens' national high school record of 9.4 seconds for the 100 yard dash). Even though I came up short trying to accomplish my quest, I'll always cherish a quote he gave during a newspaper interview my senior year; "LaMont is the best since me." I was honored; after all, I came from "The Projects!"
When I was twelve years old my friend Zel's father, Shady Owens, took us to East High School's Track and Field to hear his cousin Jesse Owens speak. Mr. Thurman Boddie happened to choose me out of several hundred kids to have Jesse teach how to use Starting Blocks. I addressed him as Mr. Owens and he said; "Call me Jesse!" While Jesse was working with me on the "Crouched" position in the blocks, TJ walked by. Jesse paused and said "Hello Trent!" I thought to my self; "Wow, Jesse knows TJ!" "Not that TJ knows the great Jesse Owens!"
You see, at that time in my life I wasn't aware of Jesse's accomplishments. In earlier years while growing up in the Hanover Housing Projects there were many summer Friday and Saturday evenings I witnessed TJ and his Franklin teammates race all comers in "The Circle" (Who could forget the many who ran and lost against them). People would lean out their windows from all seven buildings.
"The Circle" was his Track roots, as were Baden Street Settlement (Basketball), and Cortland playground (Football, Baseball). No matter how far away he traveled (Tokyo), he belonged to us (The Projects).
In closing, I would like to say that TJ joined God's Sprint Relay. So, I thank God for his mercy and grace by calling TJ home at the end, "In a Sprint and Not a Marathon!"
In early 1961, I transferred up to Franklin High School from a private school in South Carolina. That was my introduction to TJ. All the people talked about was TJ this and TJ that. I gradually found out that he was quite the athlete. Football, Basketball, Track - he did it all. But it was in track that I saw the best of him. At every track meet, people came to see TJ and to see if he would make another record. Watching him explode out of the blocks and sail down the track at blurring speeds was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen a human being do.
One day during gym class, we were out on the track running the 100 yard dash. As I settled into the starting blocks, I pictured myself running against Trent Jackson. I had studied his starting technique and I was ready to prove myself. The gun went off, and moments later, I finished dead last. My God, this was a lot harder than it looked! What was a skinny white kid doing out here in the first place! The other guys laughed at me for being so slow. As I looked for a rock to crawl under I happened to catch TJ standing on the sidelines, smiling, and looking at me. He nodded, and in that moment I knew the truth. He knew then, as I do now, that the most important thing was to compete.
TJ not only symbolized great athleticism, but the ability to transcend racial barriers. I had never known a black man that got so much respect and admiration from white people. When we watched TJ we were not watching a black man, but a natural athlete, whose greatest joy was the expression of his athleticism. Like many others, I followed TJ's career from a distance and took much pleasure in knowing that I went to school with him, even if it was only for a brief time.
I will not be sad in noting his passing. For in my minds eye, I still see him, crouched in the starting blocks, muscles tense, and waiting for the crack of the starters pistol. Go, TJ, go.
I wish to extend my condolences to Mr. Jackson's family. I only met Mr. Jackson a few times in my track and field (shot and disc) career at Fairport High, but knew him as a valuable resource to the people he came in contact with.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
Mr. Jackson was always a hero and a friend to me and my family. My mother and father grew up with Mr. Jackson in Hanover Housees or affectionately know as "The Projects". Not only did Mr. Jackson coach and teach me about sports,he and his wife Pam taught me about life!
You were an inspiration to us all Mr. Jackson and you will truely be missed. I'll never forget you!
My name is Craig Jones I when to high school at Hilton in 1987-1990
My father told me the sad news about coach TJ. I want to let you know thank you for the Sacrifices you and Trent and others. I read the articles from the D&C. I remember the practices in the summer at Madison. Trent working with me coming out the blocks at RIT evening meets (GRTC). Having a positive role models to help us played a huge part in my development as a man. I have been living in Maryland for 10 years. I never forgot everyone. Zilla, Lisa, Maurice, Michael, Garfield, etc...
Here is picture of Me for memory and my son Joshua
I can't wait until I put some spike on his feet
Thanks for your time
All though he was not my coach, I still called him Coach Jackson. I didn't ever get a chance to participate on any of his teams, but I was fortunate enough to be able to meet him, and have him as a gym Teacher. While attending Benjamin Franklin during my high school years, I noticed that everyone had a lot of respect for him. I would see him, in the hallways everyday in school, and speak to him "how are you doing today Coach Jackson"? (I would get the same answer every time I ask, long as I known him) Then he would respond "That's personal! Why are you so concerned"? The very first time I ask, I thought he was serious! Then instantly a big smile would shine upon his face.
Throughout my high school years I would love to have conversations with Coach Jackson, being the fact that he was wise, experienced, and he had a lot of wisdom! I can recall speaking with him on one particular instance; I had just gotten back from the New York State Track Meet (with former coach Cedric Walker). It was the very first time I had ever experienced going to a state Meet before. Immediately when he saw me he said "Good job Walt". "I said Good Job! I lost!" He said, "No you just didn't come in first place". Then he proceeded to ask me how many people ran that race? I made a rough estimate, "I don't know about 1000 people or more". He explained to me that out of all those competitors you ran with, you came in third place! "So you're the third fastest in the state, and you have a few more years to come", and that's a huge accomplishment, that's why I say you didn't loose. Coach Jackson led me to believe that as long as there is another day there is another chance, and room for improvement to become a better person. He let me know if I have a talent or a dream, hold on to it, fight for it, and eventually I will prosper.
He never really talked about all that he has done, or any records that he has broken. I learned a lot about these accomplishments from others, and from reading about him.
It is an honor to know, and to be able to say that I knew him personally! Also that he has given me guidance to become a better person within. He was an icon, a wonderful coach, and most of all a good friend! He will be missed!
I would like to extent my condolences out to the Jackson Family and friends. My god be with you, and give you the strength, and blessings to lift you during your mourning.
A special person
I first met TJ at Clinton Ave Recreation Center. He was the big man on campus -- he didn't have to tell you this, you just knew he was. TJ, for some reason, took me under his wing. I strived to be all around athlete; I guess that what he saw in me. I got to be a better athlete because of TJ. I compete against myself. What I mean by this is that I didn't compete with another athlete because you are admitting to yourself that person is your bench mark, I learned from TJ that you should be the benchmark, always strive to be your personal best. One thing I will always remember he said is: "you don't have to tell people that you are the best, your ability will demonstrate that".
TJ gave me my first coaching assignment as a Junior Varsity Basketball coach at Franklin High School when he took over as the Varsity coach. I told TJ that I had never coached before and I didn't think I could do it. He convinced me that I could. I believed in him and his judgement. I read books on coaching, coaching styles, and looked at films on the New York Knicks. TJ told me to just relax and coach like you do at the recreation center but on a higher level -- then it clicked. With that suggestion, our JV team did very well.
I now live in small city in Texas. A life lesson that I learned in Rochester from TJ and from the Clinton Avenue Recreation Center is that if you set your mind to it, you will do well. I apply the lessons that I learned from TJ to the karate students that I teach. I know that when they compete they are giving their best, and that's all anyone could ask.
Thank you TJ. You are missed.
Today I received news of Trent Jackson's passing. It really has shaken me because TJ was such an athletic and personal giant. I had the rare priviledge to be TJ's teammate on the Franklin Track team, and to be the manager of the championship 1960 basketball team.
I had known him from age 10 when we both attended the Central YMCA on Saturday mornings for youth activities. I was matched against him one day in the finals of a free throw contest. He was so smooth with his ball release even then, and easily dispatched me!
In 1962, when I was a member of the Track team at Ohio State, I met TJ when Illinois was visiting OSU for an indoor meet. His infectious smile beamed when he saw me in OSU sweats, and he jokingly asked if I was OSU's entry that day in the 60 yard dash, his event. He knew very well that I ran the mile!
I never saw him again as I rarely visited Rochester after 1963. But the news of his death was a real shock because I unreasonably believed that his athleticism alone would lead to a much longer life.
TJ will stay in my heart and mind forever. He was truly a unique, blessed person, and I will miss him. My sympathy to his family.
Tribute to My Light at the End of The Tunnel............
The first time I saw this worldly figure was pure joy and laughter. I had recently transferred to Franklin High from the South. That particular day was full of school spirit and a huge basketball game that night for the City title against Wilson (1991). All the students were gathered into the gym for a traditional prep rally. I was overwhelmed to see that many African-Americans gather in one place at one time without a gainful meaning. The prep rally started with a bang - the bald headed Franklin boys came out of the locker-room area in a full grown "lay-up line" to the sounds of, "I Got the Power", by Snap. It was very exciting for me to see such a powerful sense of spirit in this new place and school. Everyone was dancing and cheering and then it happened.
The spot light from above focused it's beams on Coach Jackson as he began to dance like he was back in the 1970's. He was in the middle of the court and getting "down". He began to welcome a fellow student to the middle of the floor to cut the rug. I believe it was the great ladies basketball player, Tina McCrea, and he started taking off his sweat jacket to display the 1961 Franklin basketball jersey he was wearing. The school went crazy in joy and spirit. That memory still gives me chills and a warm thought of Coach Jackson. That is simply what he was to all of us - joy and spirit.
He took you to places mentally that the everyday life of a young black youth in Rochester didn't experience. He made me think of the "big picture". He always grounded those that needed it. At times you would think he was upset with you and then.....the point would cross your mind that he is helping you.
Many athletes find themselves at the peak of their interest in sports. I found that moment when I broke Coach Jackson's record in the 100 meter dash. A record that I never felt comfortable celebrating nor accepting due to the different distances and racing conditions. Anyway, many told me I was the best and the next, along with being named, Franklin Flash II. This was too much for a person of my stature (Project kid) to accept and exceed my peak. However, one person took me into his world and home, Trent Jackson!
Can you imagine the person who's thirty-two year old record you broke would also become your mentor and coach. That was Coach Jackson, he wasn't full of himself or wanted his respect because of the past. He cared for us because he was us. That man gave me more wisdom on a daily basis than I have gotten in a full adult passage. He was my heart and my silent motivation as a man. He took me into his family under abnormal circumstances and just schooled me. I owe that man more than these words within this letter. As many of his former students and players will attest, he was fair! Well, he was fair until he tried to race you....then he would cheat to win or say he didn't want to embarrass you.
In closing, I would like to share a moment that only him and I ever knew. I share this because it's worthy to share. Coach Jackson and I were interviewed by the local paper there in Rochester for a story regarding the "Past" and "Present" of Franklin track and field. I remember we took a photograph in his wonderful trophy room in his home. He was in a recliner and sat on the arm of the recliner in pure happiness. I felt honored and slightly as if I was him for that snap shot of a moment. I remember getting that newspaper days later and the article was perfect. The photo of us was scary!!! If you've seen all the latest young pictures of Coach Jackson you know how handsome he was. I'm not expressing I was as handsome as him as a youth but it was various features of me that were identical to him as a senior in high school. Everyone made joking comments about him being my father. I always laughed it off. However, I always wished he was or if my father would have been alive at that point, I dreamed of him being lined with the same character and blood that Trent Jackson was built with. I told him that same feeling before I went off to Michigan State and without a pause he told me I was like his son and he was very proud of me. He was and still is my light at the end of the tunnel. Due to my current disability I wasn't able to say goodbye to him in person but I know he is watching me and he knows I'm wondering how he is and he is probably saying, 'None of your business, that's personal!!!".
So to the man that many will miss and remember.....I love you TJ and thanks for giving me a chance of knowing a legend and the best man I've ever witnessed.
COACH JACKSON MY HERO
I played for Coach Jackson in 1993. That man saved my life. I finished my senior year playing basketball for him, and I remember we were playing East High School. We had several traveling violations and he walked in the locker room at half time kicked a chair, and said you guys know what the problem is huh huh to much of this sh*&^ right here, and that man started to do the James Brown right there in the locker room.. As baad as we all wanted to laugh I mean holding back tears nobody laughed.not because we were scared. Well maybe a little but it was because we respected him. When he let me join the team that took me off the streets it let me know that I could do anything, because not just anyone could play for Coach Jackson, because of him I joined the Navy and served in Iraq and I've been in for 14 years and what's funny is sometimes when I'm talking to my son I try and imitate Coach Jackson and, .. and I truly thought about him and where my confidence really came from. He use to yell at me all the time but I would listen proudly..That's something people did with him, they listened proudly.
Coach Jackson I love you for making me a Quaker.. and giving me the confidence. In closing this is how strong the confidence he gave me was for example I needed an "A" to pass economics and I thought about what Franklin did for me and I studied that Economics book for three days and passed with a 98
And he shook my hand and said your on your way. to where ever the hell your going LaForce.Funny part was my name was LaFonce but I never corrected him because I didn't wanna miss what he was gonna tell me because I felt that was more important. Thanks Coach Jackson for saving my life