Albert Jackson made massive impact
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
He found his calling.
In 2002, Albert Jackson III began coaching at a school that for the better part of two decades was a central part of his life.
That school was Dawson Street Christian School, and with Jackson providing invaluable leadership, it thrived in so many ways.
From an athletic standpoint, Dawson Street Christian School won numerous state championships, with Jackson leading a basketball program that was a powerhouse.
Beyond the athletic field, Dawson Street Christian School occupied a critical role in Troup County, oftentimes providing a
second chance to student-athletes who, for various reasons, needed a new school home.
Jackson later became the school’s athletics director, and he eventually took over as principal when his father Albert Jackson Jr., who is also a key figure in the school’s history, stepped away from that position.
Dawson Street Christian School eventually moved to Newnan and changed names to Bethlehem Christian School.
Later the school moved to East Point and became Unity Preparatory Academy, but Jackson’s hometown of LaGrange was no doubt never far from his mind.
A few years ago, Jackson, who graduated from LaGrange’s Bethlehem Temple Christian School in 1987, came home.
Unity Preparatory Academy moved to LaGrange, and while it’s in a different location from Dawson Street Christian School, the mission remained the same.
Jackson, while spear-heading the various changes the school has gone through in recent years, was also fighting health issues.
Sadly, Jackson died last week at the age of 50, leaving behind his wife of 14 years, Tracy, as well as his four children, Bianca Mackfield, Albert C. Jackson, IV, Tia Jackson and Taylor Jackson.
While Jackson is gone, his legacy will without question live on, and the impact he made on the lives of young people will be long-lasting.
Following his death, some of those who knew and loved Jackson, who were among those who were positively impacted by his presence, reacted to his loss.
While sad to see him go, they were grateful for the time they had with him.
Brandon Kelley, a LaGrange High graduate who coached with Jackson and became a close friend, is one of those men.
“Albert Jackson was a pillar in the community when it came to educating our youth,” Kelley said. “He gave many kids second and third chances to get it right when it came to getting an education. Over the years he accepted many kids into the school that many people had given up on life. Many students were able to come to his school and get an education and their high-school diploma.”
Jackson, Kelley said, made sure the students learned lessons that would help them succeed after they left the school.
“Mr. Jackson wanted his graduates to at least know how to get a job and be productive in the community,” Kelley said. “He taught them that they should always dress your best for an interview because first impression is important. Mr. Jackson helped thousands of kids get accepted into college even if they didn’t attend his school. He also gave many people within the community a job. Mr. Jackson gave me my first coaching job as a football coach and he gave numerous others hope and employment opportunities. I worked for Albert Jackson four years and over that time I learned many things about coaching.”
Kelley was a successful football coach and basketball coach at the school, and he led a team to the GISA final four in 2015.
“Albert and I never had a losing season in basketball, and many people can’t say that as a coach or friend,” Kelley said. “Albert made me better because if he felt like you weren’t at your best he would let you know.”
Desmond Render was one of the students who was helped by Jackson.
“Albert Jackson came into my life in 2005,” Render said. “I was a junior at Callaway High School. At the time I wasn’t sure if I’d make it out of Troup County, and my dream of playing football is all I was hanging onto. Coach Albert, Reverend Jackson, Juanita Jackson and coach Vince Sutton gave me hope and helped my dream/vision become reality. I’m grateful for what God allowed coach to do in so many people’s lives around this area and others. So many of us were seeking a second, third, and sometimes four chance to get things right. Albert Jackson III along with the entire Dawson Street Christian School staff did whatever it took to help get kids on the right track. Albert will forever be appreciated and honored for his good work.”
In 2018, Render returned to Unity Prep as a football coach where he got to be a peer of a man who meant so much to him.
“I found myself alongside Albert Jackson again and, this time we were partners giving kids the same opportunity I was given at their age,” Render said.
Jackson, Render said “will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Rest on big guy. Thanks for allowing me to do what God placed in my heart to do at Unity Prep.”
Drew Walston got to know Jackson in 2007 when he joined the football staff at the school while working for head coach Vince Sutton, who died in 2018.
“There are no words to describe the positive impact he has had on the community for over 20 years with high-school students,” Walston said. “Coach Albert gave me my first job as a high-school coach at Dawson Street Christian working under Vince Sutton in 2007. I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Albert at Dawson Street and Unity Prep on three different occasions, once as an offensive coordinator and twice as a head coach. His impact on the community was amazing. The schools he represented were sometimes referred to as second-chance schools for students who had behavioral or academic issues in public schools. Mr. Albert didn’t consider his school a second-chance school but a new beginning. He never judged a student on their past, only what the future had in store for them.”
Walston added that “he sent so many kids to college for academic and athletic scholarships who were told they never had a chance by so many. Albert Jackson would not allow failure to be an option for those kids and gave them the guidance they needed to succeed in life. He felt his life on earth was a mission from Christ to put others before him and that’s exactly what he did. He was loved so much and will be missed terribly. I pray his children and beautiful wife Tracy find peace and always remember the impact he had on the lives of so many.”
One of Dawson Street’s former players, Christopher Wheat, was grateful for the leadership provided by Jackson.
“When I started playing football, Albert Jackson was my coach,” Wheat said. “I had no discipline or athletic ability, but coach saw someone he could push forward in football and in life. The first video I ever recorded was a football game, and I did a terrible job. Coach showed me how I could do a better job and asked me to record a video of his wedding. He even paid me. Now that I think about it, he always encouraged me to learn to do things I didn’t know I could do. That’s a true leader.”