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William H. Jackson

Born on 10-22-1878. He was born in Woodward, SC. He was accomplished in the area of Community. He later died on 6-22-1956.
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The opportunities for service to our fellowmen are many and varied but few people in our community have made so much of such opportunities or been able to manifest so concretely his contributions toward the constructive development of community life in this half of the century as has William H. Jackson as the organizer, builder and Executive Secretary of the Michigan Avenue YMCA during the past twenty-four years.

Because of our deep and reverent appreciation of the service which he has rendered to this community it is felt that a brief biographical sketch of his life and work as head of the YCA movement in this area might serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement to the youth of our community to whom his life was devoted.

Born on October 22, 1878 in Woodward, South Carolina, William H. Jackson was one of five children in a family of four boys and one girl.
Despite the fact that educational opportunities I rural areas were almost unknown that time his mother was determined that all of her children should have as much education As possible and it was this determination that inspired him to face the many discouraging circumstances which arose in later life.
His education began with the usual two months schooling each year available in rural areas of the South and it was not until a Presbyterian Church School was opened five miles from his home that his earl education assumed a degree of organization. After completing the elementary phase of his education in this manner, Mr. Jackson attended Brainard Institute at Chester, South Carolina where he finished from the Normal Department.

Anxious to secure a college education Mr. Jackson worked his way through three years at Shaw University at Raleigh, North Carolina until he was awarded a scholarship at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Here he continued to support himself by working on the campus and during summer vacations until he received his B.A. degree graduation with the class of 1901. Following graduation, William Jackson taught in Florida and Georgia, for five years he served as Executive Secretary of the Center Avenue Branch YMCA in Springfield, Ohio.
From this post he was called back to North Carolina as Superintendent of Presbyterian Sunday School Mission in the Southern area. Here he served for fifteen years taking specialized religious training at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and studying for two summers in the department of Sociology at Columbia University, New York City.

At this point he returned to the teaching field in the school system of Orangeburg, South Carolina and it was from this post that he was called to Buffalo n 1923 to direct the new service in this area being initiated by the YMCA of Buffalo.

It was here that his life's work began to take substantial form. Starting with only an office in the downtown YMCA on September 1, 1923, the new secretary began immediately to develop a program for Negro boys with the organization of a small boys' group known as the Lincoln Club and followed y the first boys' Hi-Y Club in this part of the city; soon several active groups were in the midst of their fall and winter program; the character building function of the new wok had already begun to operate.
In the meantime, Mr. Jackson was buy laying firm foundations for the new association, getting acquainted with and enlisting the help of progressive, far sighted, civic-minded Christian men who would give support and direction to the Branch Board of Managers.

Determination combined with long hours of hard work soon began to pay dividends; before long, a building was selected to b the new branch and after suitable equipment had be secured the Michigan Avenue Branch YMCA was formally opened on January 4, 1924, with an impressive and colorful program attended by an appreciative audience of interested persons; the follow year the executive led an enthusiastic group of men and women in raising their quota in the Jubilee Funding Campaign and the new Branch was well on its way toward a modern new building.

Impressed by the progress which had been made under Mr. Jackson's leadership, several prominent citizens began to manifest an interest in terms of substantial gifts toward the further development of the work; Julius Rosenwald of Chicago contributed $25,000 toward the new building; Mrs. Anna McDougall of Buffalo laid the groundwork for the endowment fund with a gift of $2,000; and finally in 1926 Mr. and Mrs. George B. Mathews were particularly impressed with the intense personal interest of the secretary in his work, announced an endowment gift of $100,000 which was later increased to $143,500.

In 1928 Mr. Jackson realized the object of several years' effort to build a new, modern, well-equipped building erected a t a cost of $285,000 was opened as the social center for the color citizens of Buffalo. With a complete staff of trained men and women the Michigan Avenue Branch YMCA under the leadership of William H. Jackson began to make itself felt as a Christian character-building influence in this community. Then in 1929 as if in reward for a job well done, Mr. Mathews sent Mr. and Mrs. Jackson on a well-deserved two months' vacation to Europe where they toured England, Holland, Belgium, Germany and France.

The following year, still looking toward the future, toward greater needs and possible expansion, Mrs. Jackson succeeded in arranging for the purchase of the properties at 591-601 Michigan and 14-16 Cypress Street. 14 Cypress Street was immediately converted into an annex for transient men passing through the city.

Again in 1934, determined to answer the need for summer camping experiences for Negro youth, Mr. Jackson succeeded in acquiring and equipping a forty-four acre camp site 23 miles from Buffalo as a year round camp for adults as well as boys and girls.

Throughout these years of acquisition and expansion, the Executive Secretary was constantly engaged with problems of maintenance and administration of these properties and facilities in order that the community and especially the youth might be adequately served. Physical, social and educational program opportunities were developed the year round for boys and girls, men and women. Operating expenses were raised annually to sustain the program and maintain the buildings in such a high state of repair that an enviable reputation has been built for the Michigan Avenue Branch YMCA among associations serving colored men and women across the nation.

Then finally, as an indication of the outstanding nature and value of the contribution which William H. Jackson had made to this community, his Alma Mater, Lincoln University called him back in June of 1942 to bestow upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his untiring work in behalf of others.

These past twenty years have seen the building of the new work on firm foundations, through capable, far-sighted leadership, but it is the coming years that will see the reaping of far reaching benefits in terms of enriched human life, far beyond even the hopes of those who gave so much.

20 Years in the Service of Youth. The Michigan Avenue Branch YMCA, Buffalo, New York; 1923-1943.