QUIET DIFFERENCE MAKER She was born on the Fourth of July in Evergreen, Ala. When she died on Sunday, Nov. 14, she had seen her children, more than a dozen grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren and 14 great-great grandchildren prosper, many of them becoming leaders in the community and their professions.
For decades, Ruby Lee Jackson worked for the City of Pensacola as a custodian first at the Fricker Center and later at the Vickery Center. For wages barely above minimum, Ms. Jackson shepherded generations of inner-city kids.
To her grandchildren, she was a hero. They flocked to her not only because she had the keys to the gym and game room, but for her loving advice, although not all that advice was delivered with a hug. Ms. Jackson wasn’t afraid to take a broom or mop to someone if they sassed her.
Her grandson, Lumon May, credits his grandmother for his involvement with youth athletics for the past two decades at the Salvation Army and the City of Pensacola Parks and Recreation Department. Watching his grandmother around children inspired him to want to do the same.
Oftentimes juggling two and three jobs to provide for his family, Lumon developed a passion for helping kids. Some, like Trent Richardson, Derrick Brooks and Vickie McMillian, went on to get college scholarships. Others weren’t as talented, but now have their children playing for Coach Lumon.
The weekend that his grandmother died, Lumon and I spent a Saturday afternoon in Attucks Court talking to a young mother who was battling an eviction notice and picking up boys who were playing in the football playoffs at Legion Field. Most of his Saturdays are like that–listening to problems and picking up kids for his league’s football and basketball teams.
Once we got to Legion Field, a 50-yard drive across the park, it took 30 minutes because everyone had something that wanted to share with Lumon. Hugs, handshakes and good-natured teasing were handed out steadily.
Lumon knew at the time that his grandmother was in her final days. Family members had already gathered at his mother’s home. As we traveled around the park, Lumon pointed to a spot where he would sit her under a tent to watch the games. He fought back the tears when he talked about how proud she was that he was in charge of all those children.
Lumon and the small army of grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren are Ruby Jackson’s legacy. She will be greatly missed, but the lessons she taught them and their friends are still being passed on.
Not all difference makers come with fanfare and publicity machines. Some carry a broom.