Former PCC VP never shies away from a fight for education or equality

The Southern Courier, May 1968

More than 550 people along with their tempers flooded a municipal auditorium for a school board meeting. The issue at hand was over a court-ordered zoning plan, but an open prayer was the first item on the agenda. But before the superintendent could finish he was interrupted by protests.

The meeting reached a climax as a young junior college instructor stepped onto the stage and into a firestorm.

“The white parents started to leave, shouting ‘we don’t want to hear any n*****,'” reported John Singleton of the Southern Courier.

Under the zoning plan students would be assigned to schools regardless of race and the county of Mobile, Alabama was in an uproar over this mandated desegregation of its schools.

On that day, in May 1968, in the deep and newly desegregated south, Jackie Jacobs stood valiantly on the stage and valiantly faced her opposition and protesters. “‘We are glad you are leaving,’ Mrs. Jacobs screamed. ‘We’re glad you’re angry. As black people, we’ve been mad all our lives,'” Singleton reported. “‘I pity you,’ she added. ‘You’re all a bunch of sick, sick people.'” And she hasn’t stopped fighting since.

Jacobs was a student in Montgomery during the “Bus Boycott” led by Martin Luther King and attended his church, Dexter Avenue Baptist. Later, she worked in voter education and registration for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, demonstrated at lunch counters and marched with King.

“Seeing the conditions of people and life in the South,” is what inspired Jacobs to become an educator, she said. “I knew I needed to get a good education to make a difference for others and myself. My parents were teachers and I saw how they were able to help others in the community.”

Eventually, her teaching and work in the desegregation of churches and schools led to a run for public office on the Board of Education for Mobile. She ran against members of the “Ku Klu Klan and White Citizens Council candidates (all white males) as my opponents,” Jacobs said. “I received the second highest number of votes. Needless to say it was dangerous and scary, but we had to be heard.”

He career whether intentionally or not has helped to break down the barriers for women as well as African-Americans. In 1976, Wayne Harpe of the Pasadena Star News wrote that “Jacobs overcame the ‘dual pressure of being a woman and being black’ to become a Bioscientist at the famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena.” She was hired on the same day she was interviewed and became the only woman on a team of 10 men.

She worked at JPL for over eight years, before becoming Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs at Cal State University.

PCC was next. She was hired as a dean by then President Jack Scott. Ultimately, “after 9 years of serving as Dean of Life Sciences and Allied Health, President James Kossler appointed me Vice President of Instruction,”Jacobs said. “I was involved in a nationwide search.”

By 2003, former PCC President Jack Scott had become senator for the 21st district (D-Pasadena and Altadena) and at a reception on the campus he announced Jacobs as his Woman of the Year.

“Jacobs is an amazing person who has won the praise and admiration of the entire community,” Scott said. “She is really a star, with tremendous persistence and unselfishness. She has fulfilled her job-related responsibilities and civic duties with integrity and distinction that is imitated by many but achieved by few.”

Jacobs retired from her position as vice president in 2011. What will she miss the most about PCC? “The many students who needed help and I was able to give assistance or guidance,” she said, and “the warm, friendly, caring and supportive groups of people/individuals across campus.”

“PCC is a great college. Of course, no matter how great you can always improve and must keep updated,” Jacobs said. “PCC must keep serving the diverse population of students and realize changes in the community as well as the world will continue to take place.” Altogether she spent 20 years serving the PCC community.

In April 2012, Scott and Jacobs were both honored for their work by the Altadena chapter of the NAACP. Scott retired from his position as chancellor of California Community Colleges in September.

Jacobs’ dedication to activism and education hasn’t cooled, and it doesn’t seem like it ever will. She has no plans for long days of knitting on her porch now that she has retired from PCC. She is on the board of Eye Dreams Inc. and the Pasadena MLK Community Coalition. She is also “in the process of establishing a ‘Student Success Center’ and will study/implement ways to help students learn math, people skills and other subject/disciplines.”

“My course is by no means completed,” Jacobs said. “I will share my breadth of knowledge and wisdom gained through the years, to continue to encourage and work with students and the community.”

Now, 44 years after she confronted opponents of desegregation in Mobile County, Jacobs is still valiantly committed to the progress and future of the Civil Right’s Movement and education.

“Our nation and communities must come to grips with restoring Civility, Respect for All People and Good Human Relations,” Jacobs said. “As individuals, organizations, government and responsible citizens we must organize and address the sickness that’s taking place dealing with race, age, sexual orientation and just plain hate.”

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