Sunrise, April 30, 1934 Sunset, May 1, 2020
My brother lived his life turning no into yes. From his birth to his death, Fred lived to defeat the naysayers spouting, “you can’t do this or that.” The third born, but the first surviving child of Fred and Mable Jacks, Fred’s life began in Union County, South Carolina on April 30, 1934. Those initial years were lived on his Grandpa Lewis and Miss Henrietta’s farm, where Fred became the “apple of his grandfather’s eye.” As our Mom said about his first two years, Grandpa Lewis took Fred everywhere with him, especially to his blacksmith shop and to the fields. One can only imagine the sorrow and sadness that Grandpa Lewis felt when he had to say good-bye to Fred in 1936. For in 1936, Mom and Fred traveled from South Carolina to South Coatesville, Pennsylvania, joining my Daddy and where Fred spent his formative years.
No one can pinpoint a specific time when Fred began to fix things. Our other brother, Ulysses, tells the story that when our Dad and some of his brothers were building our home, he told Fred and Ulysses to do some sheetrock hanging. With that assignment, Fred set out to make a miter box without directions, so that he and Ulysses could angle the corners correctly—clearly an example of an inventive and creative intelligence.
That intelligence was displayed during his public-school education. Education ranks near Faith in God (first) in the Jacks’ household. After a dubious start in academia, Fred set a remarkably high standard for his siblings to reach and exceed. Fred was graduated from Hustonville Elementary School in 1948, tied at first place in his class (8th grade), in 1949 from Gordon Junior High School, and in 1952 from S. Horace Scott Senior High School. While at Scott, Fred was the manager of the track team that won the state championship in 1952. He also participated in the Glee Club for two years and Track and Field for three years.
Nevertheless, Fred’s years at Scott were not without incident. Fred was enrolled in the general education curriculum, which included classes in the trades: woodworking, auto mechanics, carpentry, etc. He expressed an interest in becoming a medical doctor to his biology teacher or becoming a chemical engineer to his advisor. For a variety of reasons, of which racism ranks at the top of the list, both instructors told him that he could not become a doctor and that there were no jobs for “coloreds” as a chemical engineer. The system in South Coatesville steered “colored boys” to the most dangerous and dirtiest jobs in the steel mill. And, that is the direction where the teacher and guidance counselor were pushing Fred. He said “no” and with the help of teachers from James Adams School, the African-American junior high school in Coatesville, Fred was admitted to Virginia Union University in 1952 and was graduated with a major in Biology in 1956, cum laude. Several other young men, Phil Jackson, A.D. Perry, Abe Love, and Calvin Echols from Coatesville also were graduated from Virginia Union.
At Virginia Union, Fred pledged Omega Psi Phi one of the historically Black fraternities and was inducted into the Beta Kappa Psi Scientific Honor Society. He also met his future wife, Arvilla Louise Henderson at Virginia Union. They were joined in wedlock in November 1957.
Fred was drafted into the Army and was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky from 1957 to 1959. He and Arvilla lived there for the first two years of their marriage. His work at Fort Knox included research with viruses. While in Kentucky, he also acquired his first dog, Fluffy.
Upon discharge from the Army, Fred, Arvilla, and Fluffy made their way to Philadelphia via South Coatesville. Cordoza Jacks (CD) one of our many cousins, helped Fred and Arvilla get settled in Philadelphia with their first apartment, furnishings, and employment.
With a background in biology, Fred’s employment tended to be with research facilities as a virologist until he became a pharmaceutical salesman. He held positions with the Wistar Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, Vicks Laboratories, and Upjohn Pharmaceuticals. While in the sales position, Fred’s desire to become a physician re-emerged. His sales’ territory included an area with several older African-American physicians, who encouraged his dream. In 1976, he was graduated from Hahnemann Medical School.
Initially, Fred set up practice in Glenside, Pennsylvania, eventually moving the practice to Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. In addition, during his practice, Fred held various medical positions with the City of Philadelphia Prisons and as medical director for a drug rehabilitation facility and an assisted living center.
His extracurricular activities included being a staunch member of the Virginia Union University Alumna Chapter in Philadelphia, a Boy Scout Leader at Grace Baptist Church, and a lifetime member of the NAACP. And, let us not forget that Fred was an avid golfer, loved trains, enjoyed jazz music, and turned a hobby, photography, into a thriving business. I oftentimes teased him about becoming a doctor so that he would have more time to play golf!
Fred retired from his practice in the early 2000s, and he and Arvilla moved to Providence Forge, Virginia shortly thereafter. The house was surrounded by many golf courses. While watching many of the cooking shows, he refined his cooking skills and became renowned with his siblings for his ribs. He also acquired a new dog, Bobby.
As a young teenager, Fred accepted God and joined Zion Baptist Church in South Coatesville. In Philadelphia, the Jacks family joined Grace Baptist Church; in Hatboro, Salem Baptist Church; and while in Providence Forge, Virginia, the Saint Paul Baptist Church.
While in Providence Forge, he and his golfing buddies formed a group to tutor and mentor young African-American males in Richmond.
In 2018, the Jacks Family moved to Kissimmee, Florida. Unfortunately, shortly after this move both Fred and Arvilla’s health began to deteriorate. Although he spoke to me about physical therapy and rehabilitation so that he could get back on the golf course, this was one “no” that he could not overcome. God called Fred to His presence on May 1, 2020.
To celebrate his life, there is a host of family and friends, along with his wife, Arvilla, of 62 years; their children Brian (Alesia) and Pam (Marty); four grandchildren, Christopher, Iana, Kayla, and Jada; four siblings, Ulysses, Elizabeth, Inez, and Thelma; three sisters in law, Gloria, Florence, and Blanche; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Preceding him in death were his parents, Mable and Fred Sr., three brothers Roosevelt, Arthur, and James, one sister-in-law, Esther Jacks, and two brothers-in-law, Guylord Roye and Clifton (Hesy) Norman.
Although Fred’s death leaves us momentarily sad and sorrowful, we know that he was ready for the end of his faith journey and to be in the presence of the Lord. And, to this proclamation he said “yes.”
A virtual memorial service will be held on Friday, May 15, 2020 at 12pm.
…Witten by sister, Thelma Jacks (Aunt TJ)