Sports Legends: From Coaching, To Teaching, To Golf

Back in the mid 1950s through 1970, the population of Hinesville (about 45 miles southwest of Savannah) was approximately 3,000. Except on Friday nights during football season.

When Coach Harold “Hokey” Jackson’s Bradwell Institute Lions were playing at home, the population swelled to 6,000-plus.

The Lions, who never had a winning season until Jackson’s arrival in 1957, never had a losing season during the next 13 years. Jackson retired from coaching in 1970.

Not only did Jackson’s Lions never have a losing season, they won four region championships (2-B), two south Georgia championships and one Class B state championship (1965).

On the way to its state Class B championship, Hokey’s Lions met and defeated Class A Statesboro. They routed Claxton, 94-0.

“We didn’t try and run up the score. We cleared the bench. We played every man on the squad. All our guys wanted to get in on the act. They ran hard, blocked hard and did not miss any tackles,” Jackson recalls. “I wasn’t going to tell our guys to fumble. We teach them not to fumble.” Still, Hokey did not win any popularity contests after that game.

Jackson was named region “Coach of The Year” four times and “Georgia State Coach of the Year” once. Under Jackson, Bradwell teams posted a 100-33-6 won-lost-tied record.

After he left coaching, he spent the next 11 years teaching health and safety at the University of Georgia, his alma mater. He retired again in 1981.

Today Hokey is 87 years old, in good health and lives in Athens. He works out every other day, riding his bicycle, walking on his treadmill and lifting weights. Twice a week he plays golf with Georgia Bulldog legends Zippy Morocco or Charley Trippi or with his wife Doranne. She is a formidable partner: she’s made four holes-in-one to his two.

Hokey was born in Tallapoosa, but grew up in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood.

I first met him when he was a skinny, six-foot, 130-pounder, 12 years old and the star pass receiver on the Piedmont Tigers sandlot football team. The team was undefeated. The group was coached by Hokey’s brother, Charlie Jackson. (He had two other brothers, Carl and Paul.)

Hokey attended Atlanta Tech High School, where he is remembered as one of the most versatile athletes in the school’s history. He lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track.

In baseball he was so good as a hitter, base runner and infielder that he attracted the attention of Earl Mann, owner of the old Atlanta Crackers of the Class AA Southern Association.

Although Hokey was only a freshman at Tech High, Mann offered him a contract and invited him to spring training. But Hokey’s mother, Ginnybelle, politely told Mr. Mann that her Hokey was going to complete his high school education at Tech High and would then attend the University of Georgia where he would receive a college degree.

Hokey dressed out for the University of Georgia baseball team before he was even registered in school.

In the summers, he played in the amateur baseball leagues in Atlanta – shortstop and third base for Colonial Stores – and was compensated with two bags of groceries for each game he played.

He spent three years in the Air Force before entering the University of Georgia, where he met and married Doranne. They have been married 59 years.

Pro baseball be darned. Hokey took a job at Winder-Barrow before going to Jesup as defensive coach for one year. Jesup stopped Valdosta’s 40-game win streak. On to Bradwell.

In 1964, Hokey’s Lions held their 12 opponents to a rushing average of only 36 yards per game and only four first downs per game. Jackson thinks both the defensive yardage and first downs are all-time Georgia high school records.

Of all the awards that Jackson has received, none is more treasured than the one that came from the White House. It was an American Red Cross certificate of merit.

It reads, “In recognition of service rendered on October 16, 1966. Coach Jackson administered life-saving mouth-to-mouth artificial respiration to Bernard Paradise, who was a victim of electric shock. Coach Jackson’s prompt action saved this victim’s life.”

The certificate was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States.

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