David Jackson’s Legacy of Love
Built One Dollar at a Time
One day during the summer of 2017, I drove to the Georgia State University Baseball Complex. A friend had told me about Mentoring Viable Prospects (MVP), an enormously popular baseball tournament serving primarily Black high school baseball players that had been in existence since the turn of the century. Teams traveled from Virginia, Florida, Texas, Chicago, California, and Detroit to showcase their skills to primarily black college baseball recruiters.
At the time, the national narrative spun a tale that Black young men were not playing baseball, and I wanted to write about those playing the game on a high level. When I walked into the press box that day, a youngster, who I believed to be about 15 years old, was lying on the floor taking a nap.
“Oh, that’s Dave, don’t disturb him. He runs things around here,” Marque Denmon, the Public Address announcer, said.
A short while later, Dave woke from his nap; seeing me for the first time in his life, he asked me for a dollar. My hands searched my pockets while my eyes searched Dave’s face. There was a special gleam in his eyes. Finding no cash, I told the young man I would have a dollar for him the next day.
Everyone in the press box assured me that Dave would look for me to make good on my promise. The press box exploded in good-natured laughter. Sure enough, Dave walked up to me the next day and said: “Michael Harvey, you got a dollar?”
Acutely aware Dave addressed me by my name, I reached into my pocket and handed him a dollar that morning, and every time he saw me in the ensuing five years, he asked for a dollar. The last time I saw Dave was during the first round of the Georgia 4-A Baseball Playoffs in April. He did not ask me for a dollar that day. He was busy hawking foul balls and returning them in return for a dollar. That day, Dave probably had more cash than I had.
Dave was a beloved curmudgeon at Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Dave would give you a tongue lashing peppered with four-letter words if he felt you deserved it. He had a keen knack for getting on a person’s last nerve, then withdrawing from the fray before the person lashed out in bewilderment.
Absolutely no extra-curricular event occurred without Dave inserting himself into the picture in Forest Grump fashion. If there were a football game, basketball game, or band competition, Dave would show up; if it was an away event, Dave expected a seat on the bus. During Redan’s recent state championship run in baseball, Dave dressed out with the team, wearing jersey number 20. The team won.
It all began one day in 1992; Dave was about eight years old and lived down the street from Redan High School with his mother. Dave had special needs but did not receive special treatment; he was bored. Seeing a group of kids on the baseball field at Redan, Dave decided it would be a good idea to throw rocks at them. The kids’ Dave hurled his stones toward were Redan High School baseball team members. They were running around the outfield to avoid Dave’s rocks when their coach, Greg “Goody” Goodwin, yelled at them to stop playing.
“I was hitting fungo to the infielders when I noticed that the outfielders were running around in the outfield. When I yelled to them to stop, the outfielders told me that a young kid was throwing rocks at them. I told them to go and catch him,” Goodwin explains in his forthcoming memoir, “G-O-O-D-Y.”
After a good chase, the baseballers caught Dave and brought him to Coach Goodwin.
“I asked him why he was throwing rocks at my players, and he told me that he did not have anything to do,” Goodwin writes.
“So I asked him if he wanted to be my ball boy. He agreed to be the team ball boy, retrieve foul balls, and bring them back to the playing field. One of the best decisions I have ever made was to make Dave an official Redan Raider,” Goodwin said.
For the next thirty years, Dave and Coach Goodwin were inseparable. A father of two girls, Goodwin finally had a son to hang out with him. Goodwin would later become the principal at Redan High School. When the time came for Dave to enroll in high school, Goodwin saw that Dave enlisted in the Redan special education program. Dave later graduated from Redan.
“Meeting young David Jackson taught me a big lesson I used when I became a high school administrator. Whether they have a learning disability or no learning disability, young people will stay out of trouble if you give them a wholesome outlet to channel their energy positively,” Goodwin writes in his memoir.
Last week, while working on Goodwin’s memoir, I telephoned him, and before I could explain why I had called, Goodwin bellowed emotionally, “I’ve got some bad news. Dave did not wake up this morning.”
My heart sank.
Dave was the epitome of a person navigating life without a care. He lived as Christ preached about the sparrow. Dave was not concerned about what he would eat, what he would wear, what he would drink, or what anybody said about him. Dave asked anyone, stranger, or friend, what he wanted. He knocked on any door he wanted to open. He sought what he wanted to find. And everything and more that Dave desired was added unto him, mostly love.
During an emotional memorial service for Dave at Redan High School, Dave’s sister Jamie Jackson thanked the Redan community for taking Dave into their hearts.
“I want to thank Redan for showing him love throughout the years,” his sister said.
Fifteen years ago, Dave’s mother and father agreed that Dave could live with Joyce Moseley, who calls herself Dave’s bonus mom. She took Dave on her trips throughout the country, expanding his horizons beyond Stone Mountain.
“Even on the difficult days dealing with Dave, he would tell me that he loved me. I learned what unconditional love is from Dave,” Moseley told the memorial crowd.
Vance Harper, who runs a barber shop up the street from Redan High School, said, “Dave lived a good life. He would come into the shop and ask someone for a dollar, then take that dollar and go to any of the businesses on the block up there and come back with a full-size pizza from Pizza Hut or a happy meal from McDonald’s. Everybody loved him.”
Harper added, “We all need to follow Dave’s example. If we did, we would not have all this violence. Dave got along with everybody.”
When word of Dave’s transition reached Major League Baseball, seventeen of the thirty-two franchises sent condolences to Goodwin. The Atlanta Braves Baseball Club plans to create a scholarship fund in Dave’s name, and plans are afoot to induct Dave into the next Hall of Fame class at Redan High School.
“All special needs kids need, Goodwin said, is special love.”
Harold Michael Harvey is the Living Now 2020 Bronze Medal winner for his memoir Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. He is the author of a book on Negro Leagues Baseball, The Duke of 18th & Vine: Bob Kendrick Pitches Negro Leagues Baseball. He writes feature stories for Black College Nines. Com. Harvey is a member of the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, HBCU and PRO Sports Media Association, and the Legends Committee for the National College Baseball Hall of Fame. Harvey is an engaging speaker. Contact Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was so heart warming. As I was reading, it was like I was actually there witnessing all of Dave’s actions. I hope this beautifully written article will give faith, hope and encouragement to many parents and caretakers of special need children, and adults, that there is a gift within each person, placed by our God, for a positive limited contribution to society.
Dave was a shining light. He gave more joy than he received.