WWII veteran, 90, savors life during his birthday party

WWII veteran, 90, savors life during his birthday party
May 28
00:00 2015

In photo above: Willie Jackson, center, reads messages on his poster as Donovan Jackson, his great-grandson, and his goddaughter Alice Hills look on. (Submitted photo)

By Felecia Piggott-Long, Ph. D.
For The Chronicle

“”Rise and shine young Americans, for you are the hope of the world!’ Every morning, my granddaddy woke me up at 6:30 a.m. with these words,” said Lorenda Jackson, one of the four grandchildren that Willie Mack Jackson and his wife of 62 years, the late Loree Butler Jackson, raised at their home.

“Ninety years is a long time. It is a blessing to be here,” Jackson said.

Willie Mack Jackson was born on May 15, 1925 in Darlington, S.C. He was the only child born to Ben Jackson and Annie M. Jackson. However, his parents adopted the famed Lawrence Joel, for whom the Winston-Salem Coliseum is named, and his sister Geraldine Joel at the ages of 9 and 10 because Mother Joel “had too many children to raise.” Jackson is very proud of his adopted brother.
“He took care of the wounded soldiers as a paramedic. He deserved that honor. He saved many lives. He was a hero,” said Jackson. “He went under fire, and dragged many men to safety.”

More than 90 family members and friends gathered at New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday, May16, to celebrate the 90th birthday of Willie Mack Jackson, a World War II veteran. Black and white photos of Jackson from 1941 and 1942 as a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force with the 4th Air Force Unit were circulated during the party. These photos also decorate the mantle in the living room of his home. His daughter Irma Jackson, who planned the party, made a large poster of one of Jackson’s photos when he was 19, and friends and family members autographed the poster as a memoir. Jackson was grateful for reaching age 90.

“I feel like I did when I was 75 or 80. I still have a good mind, but I ain’t too strong. I am still living off of the prayers of my mother,” Jackson said.

The family relocated to Winston-Salem when Jackson was 5 years old because his mother was hired to stem tobacco at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. His mother then sent for Jackson and his father to come to Winston-Salem. His family also had a convenience store on the corner of Oak Street and Northwest Boulevard. Jackson is known for his strong work ethic. Jackson graduated from Atkins High School in 1942, and the recruiters told the students about taking the test for the U.S. Air Force.

Jackson completed three years in the Air Force. He was inducted at Fort Bragg, and he was assigned to the Tacoma, Washington, and Fresno, California. He made $20 a month. During basic training, he met many of the girls at North Carolina A&T State University. They would come and look through the fence as they trained.

“In the Air Force, I operated the Skeet Range, training pilots how to shoot. I was an expert marksman. We used the M-1 rifle, the 12-gauge shotgun and the 16-gauge shotgun. Because of my marksmanship, I stayed ready in case they would ask me to guard President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt,” Jackson said.

Jackson won two medals for his expert shooting, and he worked in the personnel department.

There was a shortage of guns, and the blacks and whites trained separately. The whites would use real guns, and the blacks would have to use limbs off of a tree during training and marching.

Jackson returned to Winston-Salem after three years in the Air Force, and he was hired at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in the 1940s, and where he retired after 36 years of service in 1982.

His daughter Irma Jackson remembers when she almost lost her father on May 12, 2014. They had his birthday party at a nursing home last year.

“He had to spend some time in hospice, and he thought that he would be leaving us, so he would no longer be a burden, but God restored his health,” said Irma Jackson. “He is still with us. During his birthday, we traveled to various places such as Myrtle Beach, Savannah, Washington, D.C., Charleston, or Virginia Beach. We are blessed that he is still with us.”

Donovan Jackson, the honoree’s great-grandson and Murray Miller, the honoree’s grandson-in-law, offered special reflections honoring Jackson’s contributions to the family. Jakeana Paul welcomed the guests, and Nina Cooper read a poem to honor Jackson. Other expressions of love through poetry and special remarks came from Cekia Young, Zariah Young, Gerald Chalmers, Alice Hill, Juanita Wilson, Belinda Smith, Rev. Wilbert and Glenda Blandon. Pastor Ronald Speas offered a closing prayer.

During World War II, Jackson recalled that segregation was the order of the day.

“I was a part of Squadron C. That “C” stands for “Colored.” We could be together on the Army base, but coming back South when we hit the Mason Dixon Line, we had to separate,” said Jackson. “The blacks rode in the front of the train so all of the smoke from the engine would come on us. The white soldiers would get the tail end of the smoke, but when we got off the train we were smoky and greasy from the smoke.”

About Author

WS Chronicle

WS Chronicle

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors