Richard Jackson,1 nicknamed “Workie,” began playing baseball in the black textile leagues in South Carolina, and had a ten-year career as an infielder in the Negro Leagues. During his professional career he played in Atlantic City; New York; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Baltimore; and Darby, Pennsylvania. Primarily known as a hitter, he was also known for his sometimes volatile temper.
Very little is known about Jackson’s personal life. He first played baseball in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1919, and there is one Richard Jackson of approximately the right age listed in Greenville’s Ward 6 in both the 1900 and 1910 Greenville census records. He was the son of harness-maker George Jackson and his wife, Margarette (Margaret) Sloan Jackson, and was born in May 1896 in South Carolina. Also in the family were siblings Selam, Paul, Carrie, Katie, Winslow, and Hattie.
On June 8, 1918, Jackson married Addie May Walden in Greenville.2 Jackson was 22 years old at the time.3 The fact that the 1925 Harrisburg City Directory, published when Jackson was playing for the Harrisburg Giants, lists Richard Jackson as a baseball player and his wife’s name as “Anna M.” tends to reinforce the assumption that this Richard Jackson is indeed the baseball player. On September 27, 1918, Richard Jackson, whose closest relative was Margaret Jackson, registered for the draft in Greenville. On his registration card, his birthdate was listed as April 8, 1897, and he was working at the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant. Despite the difference in birthdates, his relationship to Margaret Jackson probably means that this is the same Jackson listed in the census records above. Richard Jackson served briefly in the military, and was stationed at Camp Jackson in Columbia as a private in Company L, 1st Provisional Regiment, 156th Depot Brigade until November 2, 1918. From November 2 until his honorable discharge on December 13, 1918, he was a member of the 180th Pioneer Regiment.4
According to census records, in 1920 Richard and Addie Jackson were living in Ward 6 in Greenville, and he was working as a house carpenter. Also living in Ward 6 was Margaret Jackson, by then a widow, who was living with her son Winslow. Her husband, George Jackson, had died in the spring of 1919.5 In the 1921-22 Greenville City Directory, Richard and Addie were living at 212 West Coffee Street, and he was working as a laborer.
According to Thomas Perry, author of Textile League Baseball, Jackson started his baseball career with the Greenville Stars in 1919. Negro textile-league ball had become increasingly popular after the World War, and the Stars were members of the Piedmont Negro Mill League, which also included Easley, Fountain Inn, and Piedmont.
In June of 1919 the Stars went to Atlanta and swept a local team called the All-Stars. In July the undefeated Stars visited Atlanta again for a much-heralded series against the Atlanta Cubs at Ponce de Leon Field. According to the Atlanta Constitution, the “dusky champions of South Carolina” would meet the Cubs in the three-game series to begin on July 7. “A tight battle is expected and special reservations have been made for the white fans who wish to witness the fiasco.”6 The black Knights of Pythias were holding their convention in town at the time, which would perhaps provide “the largest crowd of colored fans that has ever witnessed a game in Atlanta.”7 Although the papers failed to report on subsequent games, the Cubs won the first game of the series handily.
Jackson continued to play with Greenville during 1920 and part of 1921. His “timely hitting” was instrumental in Greenville’s defeat of the Spartanburg Sluggers on June 21, 1920.8 On April 25, 1921, despite Jackson’s “stellar game,” the Stars lost to the All-Cuban League.9 He left Greenville partway through the 1921 season to play for the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, where he and Oliver Marcelle played backup to starting shortstop Dick Lundy. News reports indicate that on May 22, 1921, in a losing effort against the A.B.C.’s, he got a triple.10 Jackson appeared in 16 games for the Bacharachs in 1921, and had a batting average of .216. His fielding percentage, however, was rather low at .921.11
When the team split in 1922, Jackson went to New York to the newly formed New York Bacharach Giants, where he started at second base. When the Giants played an exhibition game against the Huntingdon (Pennsylvania) Yellow Dogs in August 1922, they were described as the “fastest colored ball club in the world.”12 That year Jackson appeared in 43 games, and posted a batting average of .243, an on-base percentage of .294 and a slugging percentage of .303.13 14 During both of these seasons, he also played occasionally in the outfield.
The following season (1923), Jackson played for a short time with the Brooklyn Royal Giants before signing with the Eastern League's Harrisburg Giants. He remained with Harrisburg, playing mostly second base, until 1926. The Giants, members of the Eastern Colored League, played at Island Park, which they shared with the Harrisburg Senators. Jackson was living in Harrisburg in 1924. The city directory for that year lists Richard Jackson, a ballplayer, living with his wife, Maria, at 435 Strawberry Street.
In 1924, when Harrisburg finished second in the ECL standings, Jackson hit .269. On August 18 he hit a base-clearing triple in a losing effort against the Baltimore Black Sox.15 In February 1925 Ben Taylor, writing about the ’24 Giants in the Baltimore Afro-American, described Jackson as “a very capable little ball player … a fair fielder and over the average at bat. He is also a fair base runner.”16
Jackson was still living in Harrisburg and playing for the Giants in 1925. Boyd’s Harrisburg Directory indicates that Richard Jackson, listed as a ballplayer, was living with his wife, Anna M. Jackson, at 1002 North 6th Street in Harrisburg. In June of that year, columnist W. Rollo Wilson described Jackson as “a lulu … another flaming youth who will be a star; just now only two men rate as better than he on the keystone.”17 That season the Giants actually scored more runs per game than the Murderer’s Row of the 1927 Yankees, and Jackson hit .302.18 He was apparently a volatile player. Neil Lanctot reports that on July 25, in a game at Hilldale Park, Clint Thomas of the Hilldale Daisies tried to break up a fight between Jackson and Hilldale’s Frank Warfield. After Oscar Charleston of the Giants pushed Thomas away, Jackson hit Warfield, which launched a full-scale fight.19
The incident prompted Hilldale owner Ed Bolden to write a letter to the Afro-American describing the incident and decrying the poor sportsmanship exhibited: “Jackson of Harrisburgh [sic] called Warfield a vile name, via of Warfield’s mother. Thomas pushed them aside, Charleston rushed up, pushed Thomas aside and said let them fight: Jackson hit at Warfield. Though reluctant to fight, Warfield ducked, knocked Jackson down and pounced on him. I do not encourage fighting on my team. … If Hilldale cannot win the pennant through wholesome sportsmanship and clean baseball, I do not want it.”20
Jackson remained with the Giants during the 1926 season. He hit a home run in a game against the Baltimore Black Sox, also part of the Eastern Colored League, on July 23.21 He was actually traded to the Black Sox for Wilson C. “Connie” Day that year, but refused to report until Harrisburg had paid him the back salary due him. He had settled the issue by March 1927, and was preparing to report to Baltimore. The Afro-American described him at the time as “a good batter and a crack ground coverer.”22
Jackson played second base for the Black Sox during 1927 and 1928.23 In 1927 he hit .327, but lost some playing time because of injuries he received in an automobile accident. On June 12, in a game against Camden, New Jersey, he and Jud Wilson led the team with two hits apiece.24 The following day Jackson got four hits in five at-bats, including a home run.25 In 1928 he was the Black Sox’ leadoff batter. On May 10, writing about a doubleheader between the Black Sox and the Bacharach Giants, W. Rollo Wilson of the Pittsburgh Courier described Jackson as “a pain in the collective neck of the B-Giants.” In the first game, he hit a double and scored a run, as well as showing some sparkling defensive play. During the second game, which was shortened by darkness, he had two hits, including a double, in three at-bats.26 By mid-August, however, Jud Wilson had taken over at second for Jackson, who had a broken leg.27 According to preliminary statistics provided by Gary Ashwell, Jackson played in 37 games for the Black Sox that year, and had a batting average of .325, an on-base percentage of .358, and a slugging percentage of .454. His .325 batting average put him fifth on the Black Sox leader board and 20th among Eastern Colored League batters.
According to David Lawrence, author of The Eastern Colored League (2003), during his career in the league Jackson was a fair hitter, with 151 hits in 566 at bats, and an average of .267. Although other statistics are notoriously under-reported, Lawrence notes that he hit 13 doubles, two triples, and one home run, had six stolen bases, and was walked 21 times. His slugging percentage was .302 and his on-base-percentage was .293.
In 1929 Jackson and Crush Holloway were traded to the Hilldale Daisies of Darby, Pennsylvania, in exchange for Mervyn “Red” Ryan and Frank Warfield. Jackson was being paid $195 per month by Hilldale, only $40 a month more than the rookies on the team, and far less than stars like Oscar Charleston, who made $375 a month.28 Hilldale was owned by Ed Bolden, who had been instrumental in forming the Eastern Colored League in 1922. Under his leadership the Daisies had long been a dominant team in the league. The Eastern Colored League had folded the previous year, and Hilldale, along with most of the league’s other members, had formed the American Negro League.
Jackson apparently did not start off well with Hilldale. By early July he was batting very poorly, but columnist W. Rollo Wilson declared, “No one can convince me that he will not better that puny .206 mark he now has.”29 Jackson’s batting apparently began to improve, because in a two-game series that Hilldale split with the Cuban Stars in mid-July, he led Hilldale in hits, ending the series with a single, a double, and a triple.30 He apparently continued his volatile ways. On August 29, 1929, Jackson fought with teammates Joe Strong and Sam Warmack over 40 cents that Strong supposedly owed Warmack. Strong reportedly reached for a weapon, and Jackson hit him with a brick, fracturing his skull.31
According to writer Bill Gibson of the Afro-American, “Ed Bolden was no means tickled to death with the showing that the Daisies made during the past season, as there was wrangling and squabbling in the club that impaired its efficiency considerably. Late reporting on the part of some players and the trades that failed to pan out, caused dissension and the Darby chief’s spirits were dampened considerably. So you should not be surprised if some names that graced the roster this year are missing. Jackson, Strong, Charleston, and one or two others may not have Ed Bolden’s signature on their checks next season, for reasons which they understand only too well.”32
Jackson hit .263 with the Daisies in 1929. In 1930 Bolden lost control of the team to John Drew. And Gibson’s conjecture did not prove reliable; Jackson remained with Hilldale in 1930. By this time the short-lived American Negro League had folded, and Hilldale was playing as an independent. Jackson batted only 13 times for Hilldale that year, and had a batting average of .231 (three hits) and an on-base-percentage of .286.
By 1931 Jackson was back with the Black Sox playing second and third base and occasionally right field. Some sources indicate that he also spent some time with the Memphis Red Sox that year, but I have been unable to confirm that information. In 114 at bats with the Black Sox, he had 29 hits, including four doubles. His batting average for the year was .254 and his slugging percentage .289.
This was Richard Jackson’s last season as a professional baseball player. He apparently returned to Greenville, where he worked as a laborer. He lived only eight more years after he retired, and died of a pulmonary hemorrhage on October 3, 1939, at the age of 43.33 He is buried in Richland Cemetery in Greenville. His mother, Margaret Jackson, died in Greenville in December 1942 at the age of 69. She had outlived at least two of her children, Richard and Winslow, who died in 1940.
Ancestry.com (Census records and city directories)
Dick Clark and Larry Lester, The Negro Leagues Book (Cleveland: Society for American Baseball Research, 1994).
Neil Lanctot, Fair Dealing and Clean Playing: the Hilldale Club and the Development of Black Professional Baseball (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2007), 133.
James Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1994).
Seamheads.com: Negro Leagues Database
My special thanks to Ted Knorr, who helped me to enlarge on Jackson’s time with the Harrisburg Giants, and to Neil Lanctot, who helped sort out all the contradictory information available on Hilldale, and who generously read and commented on a final version of this article.
1 Although many secondary sources refer to him as “Dick Jackson,” he was almost always referred to as Richard Jackson in published reports.
2 The 1920 census record refers to Addie as “Annie M.” Many public records also refer to Richard’s wife as Annie, Maria, or just by her initials, A.M.
3 Marriage License, State of South Carolina, County of Greenville, June 8, 1918.
4 Official Roster of South Carolina Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, World War, 1917-18, vol. 2, 1437.
5 Greenville News, April 2, 1919, 8.
6 “Greenville Team Play Atlanta Cubs at De Leon Park.” Atlanta Constitution, July 4, 1919, 11.
7 Atlanta Constitution, July 6, 1919, A2.
8 Thomas K. Perry, Textile League Baseball: South Carolina's Mill Teams, 1880-1955 (New York: McFarland, 2004), 64.
9 Perry, 64.
10 “ABC’s Nose Out Bacharach Giants 8-7” Indianapolis Star, May 22, 1921, 26.
11 1921 Atlantic City Bacharach Giants. Negro League Database, seamheads.com.
12 “Bacharach Giants Here Tomorrow for Exhibition Game.” Daily News, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, Aug 17, 1922, 1.
13 1921 Atlantic City Bacharach Giants. Negro League Database, seamheads.com.
14 1922 New York City Bacharach Giants. Negro League Database, seamheads.com.
15 Baltimore Sun, August 18, 1924, 8.
16 Ben Taylor, “Ben Taylor Calls Oscar Charleston of Harrisburg World’s Greatest Fielder,” Afro American, February 7, 1925, 6.
17 W. Rollo Wilson, “Eastern Snapshots,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 27, 1925, 13.
18 Ted Knorr, PennLive.com, “276 The Pitchers I (Starters).” http://blog.pennlive.com/gloryoftheirtimes/2007/11/276_the_pitchers_i.html.
19 Neil Lanctot, Fair Dealing and Clean Playing: The Hilldale Club and the Development of Black Professional Baseball ( Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2007), 133.
20 “Bolden says Charleston Can’t Wreck Eastern League,” Afro-American, August 1, 1925, 23.
21 Baltimore Sun, July 24, 1926, 10.
22 Afro-American (Baltimore) March 12, 1927, 11
23 Although Baseball-Reference.com lists Jackson as a member of the Philadelphia Tigers of the Independent Negro League in 1928, I was unable to corroborate this.
24 Baltimore Sun, July 13, 1927, 12.
25 Baltimore Sun, July 14, 1927, 11.
26 W. Rollo Wilson, “Sport Shots,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 11, 1928.
27 W. Rollo Wilson, “Sport Shots,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 11, 1928, A6.
28 Information provided by Neil Lanctot.
29 W. Rollo Wilson, “Sports Shots,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 6, 1929, 17.
30 W. Rollo Wilson, “Daisies-Cubans Split Initial 2nd Half Series,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 13, 1929, A5.
31 Lanctot, 198.
32 Bill Gibson, “Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya,” Afro-American, October 19, 1929, 14.
33 Standard Certificate of Death, State of South Carolina, filed October 11, 1939.