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Wilbur Jackson and The Crimson Tide

Updated on May 29, 2014
Wilbur Jackson, the first Black student offered a scholarship to sign with The University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
Wilbur Jackson, the first Black student offered a scholarship to sign with The University of Alabama Crimson Tide. | Source

Jackson's Early Years

Wilbur Jackson was born to Buster and Jimmy Mae Jackson on November 19, 1951 in Ozark, Alabama. Wilbur is the youngest of four siblings.

Wilbur Jackson knew from the start how he wanted his life to be and he wanted to become a great football player and be able to provide for his family one day. He use to watch his Dad work hard trying to provide opportunities for his kids in difficult times.

After a long hard day at work, his Dad would come home and work some more with the crops he grew and the animals he raised to feed his family. Jackson recalls all to well how his Dad would lay awake at night trying to figure out how he was going to make ends meet.

His Dad worked for the railroad and his Mom did domestic work. Seeing how hard it was for his Dad to take care of his family, he knew he had to do well in the goals he set for himself.

The High School Years

Wilbur Jackson attended D.A. Smith High School, the high school for Black students during the days of segregation, he played football one season for D.A. Smith.

During the year 1969, Tom McClendon (coach for Carroll High School) and Pat Dye (assistant coach and recruiter for the Wire Grass area) visited D.A. Smith High School to look at Wilbur Jackson's records and grades. Apparently they liked what they saw and Pat Dye told Jackson that they would be watching. They were the only ones watching. Jackson had hopes that Alabama State University, where his two sisters earned degrees would be watching or Tuskegee University.

D.A. Smith High School changed to a Middle School forcing students to attend Carroll High School, an all white school. Carroll High integrated it's school system in 1969. Jackson played football his senior year at Carroll High as an all-state wide receiver.

Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant

Paul William Bryant, Sr. Sept. 11, 1913 - January 26, 1983
Paul William Bryant, Sr. Sept. 11, 1913 - January 26, 1983 | Source

Jackson Signs With The Alabama Crimson Tide

Pat Dye had gone to Carroll High School to look at two players who had already signed with Alabama as a wide receiver and a full back, they were to graduate in the spring. While Dye was there, coach McClendon showed him a tape of Wilbur Jackson playing in the spring jamboree. He was a great player with speed and athletic ability.

Jackson was the first Black scholarship athlete to sign with the Alabama Crimson Tide. C.M. Newton, head basketball coach recruited a Black player, Wendell Houston that same year. He was the first Black basketball player to sign with Alabama. In 1970, John Mitchell was the first Black player to start a game for The Crimson Tide.

Autherine Juanita Lucy was the first Black student to attend the University of Alabama in 1956.

These incidents changed segregation and was a true sign society was changing in the South. Of course there were many who still resisted, it had only been six years since Wallace tried to stop two Black students from entering Alabama, they were Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood.

On Jackson's recruiting trip, he met coach Bear Bryant but he was still thinking about the stunt George Wallace (Governor of Alabama) pulled making a stand in front of the Foster Auditorium entrance refusing to let two Black students through. Coach Bryant told Jackson that if he came to Alabama, he would make him the best wide receiver in the nation. Bryant also said "if you have a problem, you come see me". Jackson's time there, he never had to go see the coach for any reason.

Paved The Way

From the Tide, he won a National Championship. The NFL was watching him, in three seasons with the Tide he was drafted in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers. His position was running back with San Francisco 49ers (1974-1979) He played nine seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins (1980-1982). Wilbur Jackson is a true pioneer and paved the way for other Black athletes is a legend in his hometown and he is in the state's athletic history but he wasn't nominated to be in The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame until another star athlete from Carroll High School and Alabama was inducted in 2006. That's when the current coach of Carroll High School (Ronnie Cottrell) noticed that Jackson had never been nominated. Here's a trailblazer with a National Championship and a Super Bowl and never been nominated. Cottrell and Dye agreed that he deserved to be there and so the campaign began to get Jackson elected. Wilbur Jackson was inducted to The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wilbur Jackson & The Crimson Tide

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    • bodylevive profile image

      BODYLEVIVE 4 years ago from Alabama, USA

      Hi angelesteelrollin76,

      I was among one of the ones thinking that too, until I decided to do the research. It came up in a discussion about Bama back in the day. So, I was guilty of that mistake.

    • angelsteelrolln76 profile image

      angelsteelrolln76 4 years ago from Alabama

      Great clarification between Jackson and Mitchell. People always believed that John Mitchell was the first to be award a scholarship.