Mannie Jackson has been lauded for his sharp business sense and entrepreneurial spirit. Of All his many achievements, however, Mr. Jackson says his most important is being a philanthropist.
From Boxcar to Boardrooms
Mannie Jackson was born and lived for three years in a boxcar in Illmo, Missouri. After moving to Edwardsville, Illinois, he became a stand-out player in basketball and earned a full scholarship to the University of Illinois. He and his best friend Govoner Vaughn were the first African American starters for the Fighting Illini and the first to earn varsity letters. Mr. Jackson also was the first African American team captain.
He went on to work and play for the Technical Tape Corporation, which had a team in the National Industrial League, before joining the Harlem Globetrotters. He followed his basketball career with a successful career in business, working first for General Motors and then for Honeywell, from which he retired as international senior vice president of marketing, administration, and logistics. At the time of his retirement, Mr. Jackson was serving on the Board of Directors of six Fortune 500 companies.
Mannie Jackson returned to the world of professional basketball after retiring as the first African American owner of a major sports franchise when he bought the nearly-bankrupt Harlem Globetrotters. He not only restored the team to international fame and fortune but also made it a leader in charitable giving.
Mr. Jackson endowed the Mannie L. Jackson Illinois Academic Enrichment and Leadership Program (I-LEAP) in the College of Applied Health Sciences, which provides academic and personal support services to first-generation and underrepresented college students. His gift to Lewis and Clark College helped to establish the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities.
In accepting the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award, Mr. Jackson said, “I like being called a philanthropist. When you decide to be a philanthropist and you help others and improve the world when you go, the legacy and the memory of what your family meant to the world and what you tried to accomplish lives forever.”
Mr. Jackson is a two-time inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as an owner and as a player. He was named Laureate in the Order of Lincoln, the State of Illinois’ highest honor. He also received the NCAA’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Award, and the University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed upon alumni by the University of Illinois Alumni Association.