Oliver Jackson served as Abilene Christian University’s head track & field coach from 1948-63, coaching athletes who won four Olympic Gold Medals, set 17 American records, and recorded 15 national collegiate records.
Jackson was an accomplished athlete who won the long jump at the Texas high school state championship. He went on play football at Abilene Christian and was named in 1966 to Sports Illustrated‘s Silver Anniversary team honoring the best senior college football players from the 1941 season.
Jackson graduated from ACU in 1946 and joined the school’s coaching staff that same year as assistant coach in track and football. He was an assistant coach on the Wildcats’ only undefeated, untied football team in 1950.
Jackson took over head track & field coaching duties in 1948. His track teams at ACU won 78 titles at the Texas, Drake, and Penn Relays, and in 1953 the Wildcats scored a “triple crown” with wins in the 440 yard, 880 yard, and mile relays at the Texas, Drake, and Penn Relays. His teams also won NAIA titles in 1952, 1954, and 1955, and a 1959 Sports Illustrated article called Jackson “probably the best relay coach in the United States.”
At Abilene Christian, Jackson coached three U.S. Olympic Team members: Bobby Morrow, quarter-miler Earl Young, and pole vaulter Billy Pemelton. Morrow, a sprinter, won Gold Medals at the 1956 Olympics in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay. Young won a Gold Medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome in the 1,600m relay, and Pemelton finish eighth in the pole vault in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Jackson was ACU’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 1961 and is also a member of the NAIA, Texas, ACU, and Drake Relays Halls of Fame. He became a member of ACU’s Board of Trustees in 1974 and a Senior Board member in 1991. In 1962, Jackson and fellow USTFCCCA Hall of Famers Don Canham (Michigan) and Bill Bowerman (Oregon) founded the U.S. Track & Field Federation. He also served as President of the track & field coaches association (1960-61), as a member of the NCAA Track & Field Rules Committee, as referee of eight NCAA Division I indoor and outdoor track & field national championship meets, and as referee of the Texas high school state track & field championships for the University Interscholastic League.
Jackson passed away in 2007 at the age of 87.