James Jackson was a strong spirit, a student of the life and a social servant of the world, a wise conscious philosopher who was passionate about music and art. He touched many people from all walks of life bridging cultural and social class barriers, as well as generational gaps in the diverse communities of people who had the privilege of crossing paths with him throughout his life.
He was a great man.
He taught fitness and exercise classes and contributed to the community’s richness through supporting his children’s sports and music activities. A disciple student of master Voung Thong in Vo Lam Original Kung Fu, he acquired a 3rd Degree Black Belt. He helped establish a Kung Fu school at the U of M; and trained students in self-defense at his home, and community spaces such as Powderhorn Philips Cultural Wellness Center.
After retiring from sales, Jackson returned to working with youth through substitute teaching at charter schools.
Born November 18, 1935 to LeRoy Jackson and Frances Roberts Jackson, James was raised on Minneapolis’ south side, with siblings LeRoy Jr., Leola and Shirley. He was a bright child, active in the Church of God in Christ, and enjoyed sports and music. After graduating from Central High School in 1953, Jackson began boxing at Phyllis Wheatley House, coached by boxing luminary, Harry Davis, Sr.
After just a few months training, he won the 1954 Upper-MidWest Golden Glove Flyweight championship, earning him a spot at the National Tournament in Chicago. He proceeded to dedicate himself with great purpose to boxing. He won the 1957 National Golden Gloves Flyweight Championship; and was one loss away from making the 1960 US Olympic team.
He fought several professional fights before retiring with an undefeated Bantamweight record of 3 wins by knockout, one draw, with no losses. He continued to contribute to the boxing community in the following years through coaching youth at Minneapolis’ Pillsbury House, where his team won the City Tournament; and more informally coaching neighborhood youngsters in his backyard.
Jackson returned to training boxers again in the early 2000’s working with Sankara Frazier at the Circle of Discipline.
Jackson met and married Shirley, while attending the University of Minnesota, where he received a BA in Sociology in 1962. They began their family life together in north Minneapolis. He worked for several years as a social worker, first for Bar-None Ranch as a group organizer for troubled teen boys and in Duluth as a case worker for St. Louis County. He later worked as a counselor for Minneapolis Big Brothers.
Following the Plymouth Avenue Riots In the late 60’s, Jackson spearheaded a project funded by the Dayton Hudson Foundation opening Teen Centers in South Minneapolis specifically targeting at-risk-youth who had dropped out of school. He mentored and fought to provide opportunities to young people in an effort to undo the negative stigmas of racism and institutionalized in-equalities. He was influenced by the teachings of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. believing change does not come without a fight but peaceful relations across racial lines was attainable.
By 1970, Jackson’s growing family, now four daughters large, encouraged a move into sales. He spent fifteen years working for the Xerox Corporation; and another fifteen with Everything For The Office/Corporate Express.
His passion for discipline and good health was his foundation to a life as strict vegetarian and practitioner of meditation; the study of martial arts; and acquiring a wealth of knowledge on nutrition and alternative medicine.
He became a member of the Minneapolis Library Board in 1975; and his concern for equality in education deepened even further.
After the birth of their 6th child, and second son, Jim and Shirley moved to Mound.
Devoted husband and father, Jackson is survived by wife of 51 years, Shirley; their children: Melody, Robynn, Celeste, Heidi, Charan, and Aaron; daughter-in-law Melody; grandchildren: Benjamin, Celina, Kaela, Lucas, Ysabel, Zoe, Nina; and great-grandchild Aubrey.
A memorial service was held for Jackson on Saturday, August 6th 2011 at
Rose Hill Alliance Church, 2105 Roselawn Avenue West, Roseville, MN 55113.