By Aaron Allen
The Seattle Medium
On a hot summer in 1955 a young, gifted football and baseball player and his family took to the road traveling from the Jim Crow era south, twenty-six hundred miles, looking to plant new roots in the Pacific Northwest.
After settling in Seattle, the young man’s older brother suggested that since he was no longer playing football that he should take up coaching the game he loved. Out of that suggestion, a 58-year coaching career was born.
Charles Jackson, Mr. Jackson as he is known, has been coaching, mentoring and guiding young children through sports for almost 60 years and he has no intentions of quitting.
“I came to Seattle in 1955, I was a good football player in my younger years at Cobb Avenue High School in Anniston, Alabama,” Jackson recalled. “So, when I got here [to Seattle] football season started and my older brothers said, “why don’t you come and coach” so I started down there at Rainier.”
Jackson coached at Rainier from 1959 to 1990, when he left Rainier to coach at CAYA from 1990 to 1995. In 1995, he helped form the CD Panthers, where he still plays an active role.
“Myself and four others we took the Panthers over and I’ve had the Panther ever since then,” said Jackson.
Loving children enough to mentor and teach them takes a special type of person, particularly on a volunteer basis, but to do it for more than fifty years takes an extraordinary soul. Jackson’s love of football and his love for his community and its future — the children has made him a Pop Warner icon in the Pacific Northwest.
“Mr. Jackson is the legend and founder of Seattle’s Black community football culture,” says longtime Rainier Eagles/Ravens coach Vorian Lewis, who has been coaching for 35 years himself. “If you know him, it was all about the kids and their future, serving the kids and helping them build a future.”
There is probably not one young athlete who’s grown up playing in the Seattle community center leagues, Rainier, CAYA and now the CD Panthers who has not come under the tutelage of Mr. Jackson.
Can you image the amount of young men over this period of time that this man has had an influence on? Not just on young men but their fathers and maybe even grandfathers have played under the legendary coach.
“My mother had sixteen children and she always told me if you can give something back do that,” says Jackson. “So that’s part of why I’m still into football and helping some of the kids out today because some of the kids don’t have mothers or fathers and they’re just out there.”
During Jackson’s tenure, some of the athletes that have come through his program — like Eric Metcalf, James Hastings, Kevin Washington, Herald Franklin and others — have gone on to have great success as professionals in football, professionals in their communities and in life.
Sports in America can be seen or used for a variety of different reasons. It teaches teamwork, comradery, structure. It gives children options other than hanging out in the streets, discipline and these attributes can carry on into the life of children with the hopes of making them better and productive members of a community, of society. All things that Jackson hopes to instill in others.
“One thing I learned from Mr. Jackson as a coach and as an administrator of a program is the value and importance of branding, putting your product on the field to compete,” said Lewis. “The idea of never quitting, staying with it, because of the times using football in a competitive spirit to represent your community. Fight for your community.”
Terrell Baisy, Jackson’s grandson, and a good coach in his own right, has helped to take over the mantle along with other members of family to continue their family legacy in youth football and mentorship.
“The first thing he [my grandfather] instilled in me was sacrifice,” says Baisy. “He would do whatever it took to makes sure his family was good. The second thing was hard work. He told me you can get everything you want with hard work.”
“Another is leadership,” adds Baisy. “He would say everything starts from the top and trickles down. These are some of the key elements that I have used.”
From Jackson’s perspective, it is about community. The old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” stems from his purpose and commitment to his cause and football is his conduit.
In the lives of humanity everyone possesses something that they love to do and if you are lucky you will discover what that is and make if not your life, at least a part of your life in some form or fashion and football and community has found a balance in Jackson’s life.
“As long as I’m alive I stay here in football and help some of these kids out and some of the parents, I coached some of their parents,” Jackson proclaims.
Because the family is the foundation of community, family life can instill community service and coming from a large family Jackson used his position to urge the community to become more involved in the lives of its children.
“I think the community should be more supportive of the kids, some of the kids come from struggle, some children could pay and some of them couldn’t,” says Jackson.
Circumstances vary for every child, along with challenges and scarce resources. But, every so often people come together and step up such is the case of Jackson during his time building football programs
“At one point, we didn’t have such things as sponsorships and at one point through contacts Gary Payton donated uniforms to the whole program, before that my wife and I would cook and sell dinners to keep the program going,” recalled Jackson about the on-going tasks needed to keep an inner-city football program alive.
Despite many ups and downs that come with coaching football for 58 years, the 79-year-old Jackson’s wit and genius on the football culture can still be felt.
The smell of freshly cut grass, the laughter of children is in the air, parents are gathered talking about their work day or the great weekend they’ve got planned, the sounds of helmets and shoulder pads clashing in the background you can see that it is football season and someone inquired, “can you tell me where I can find Mr. Jackson,” and in unison the crowd of parents pointed to the sign in and registration desk at the end of the field as if it should have been common knowledge.
There are a chosen few people who possess the type of strength needed to exude the commitment necessary to provide leadership in their community, in whichever form it presents itself. Some use teaching, humanitarian work, politics, in this instance though it is mentorship through a game called football and Seattle has one of the most committed people to a particular cause in the form of Mr. Charles Jackson.
“Growing up with a grandfather like Charles Jackson was a blessing. From the beginning, he showed me how to work hard and provide,” said Baisy.