Mannie Jackson

While watching a basketball game on the Big 10 network—my wife went to Michigan and I went to Indiana for grad school—when a name crawled across the bottom of the screen that caught my eye: Mannie Jackson. The reason his name grabbed my attention is because he played in the first basketball game I ever saw. The game was the culmination of March Madness. Our high school, Edwardsville, was playing defending champion Rockford West in the Illinois state championship game and the game was broadcast on television. We lived in a village of 150 people and the elementary school we attended was one of several feeding the junior and senior high schools in the consolidated district. About all I remember from the game was a Rockford West player making free throws and our cheerleaders crying when our team lost the state championship 67-65. The first time I saw a game in person was in junior high when I played bass clarinet in the school’s pep band. I don’t remember much from it beside the noise we could make stomping our feet on the wooden floor and Betty Van Winkle poking me in the back with her trombone slide, saying, “Sit up straight. Don’t slump.”

I recall reading where Mannie Jackson and teammate Governor Vaughn played for the University of Illinois along with Don Ohl, who was two years ahead of them in high school. I had no idea that he and Vaughn were the first black players to play on the Illinois varsity. I vaguely recall reading that Mannie was playing for the Globetrotters some time after graduating from college but had no idea what he accomplished after that. Mannie Jackson’s life story is absolutely amazing and can easily be found on the internet.

Here is a link to the video from the 1956 championship game: 1956 IHSA Boys Basketball Championship Game: Rockford (West) vs. Edwardsville (H.S.) – Bing video

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