By Jared Fields, Editor in Chief
Oliver Jackson coached three Olympians, athletes who held 15 world records and four Olympic gold medals and was inducted into seven different halls of fame. He coached at ACU from 1947 to 1963 and in 1966 was selected by Sports Illustrated as a Silver Anniversary All-American, honoring the best senior football players from the 1941 season.
Jackson died December 26, at the age of 87 in his home in Abilene.
What made Jackson one of his era’s best coaches wasn’t the top recruits he brought to Abilene Christian College in the 50s and 60s but his ability to talk his athletes into being a great athlete.
Jackson also coached the linebackers as an assistant on the football team and after just 16 years in coaching, moved to Austin where he worked as an insurance salesman.
Burl McCoy called Jackson a “good psychiatrist.”
“He had a way about him,” said McCoy, who spent four years as an athlete under Jackson’s tutelage and one year as a graduate assistant after coming to Abilene Christian in 1950.
“Even though you might not be very outstanding when he recruited you, he madeyou believe you could do a lot of things.”
Former Abilene Reporter-News sports editor and ACU alum Bill Hart tells a similar story of Jackson taking an athlete to great success.
“He was an ideal coach for a sports writer,” Hart said. “Easy to quote, he always gave you great copy and would always sit around and tell you stories.”
One story passed along to Hart was of the recruitment of Bill Woodhouse, who tied the world record in the 100-yard dash twice while at ACU and ran on the teams that set world records in the 440- and 880-yard relays.
Woodhouse, from Mason City, Iowa, met Jackson at the bus station after his recruitment. The two had never seen each other before then.
Hart said the athlete Jackson met was short and squatty and not the type who looked like a track athlete.
“Oliver said, ‘boy, I wasted a scholarship here,'” Hart said. “He proved one thing, that you couldn’t judge a person by their stature.”
Like Hart, former ACU track and field coach Don H. Hood witnessed Jackson’s coaching skills in action. Hood played linebacker, where Jackson was his coach, and then competed in the pole vault for the track team.
“His competitive spirit; he was able to pass it on to the guys that ran for him,” Hood said. “For some reason or another, they wouldn’t let someone pass them. He’d fight till the last drop of blood. Sort of like the “little dog fights harder” syndrome.