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Southeast Texas mourns loss, honors legacy of sports legend Barbara Jacket

Barbara Jacket was known as one of the greatest women’s track and field coaches in the U.S.

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — The Southeast Texas community is mourning the loss and honoring the legacy of a beloved and well-known member of the sports community.

Barbara Jacket was known as one of the greatest women’s track and field coaches in the U.S. Jacket died last week at the age of 87.

Friends and family of Jacket said it would take a week to list all of her accomplishments.

Jacket was the head coach of the U.S. Women’s Track team for the 1992 Olympics. She was also the second African-American female to be a head coach for the U.S. Olympic team.

Jacket was known as a bright light in Southeast Texas and an inspiration and mentor to young athletes. Her family said her legacy will never be forgotten.

“The world has lost one great person, and her legacy will live on not only in the field of athletics but her family because she loved her family,” Melvin Getwood, Jacket’s cousin, said

Jacket was many things, but to her family, before she is anything else, she is beloved member of them that will be truly missed.

“I think that BJ had a great love for family,” Getwood said. “She was very family oriented. She pushed family to do things at a high level, but she was down to earth. She showed humility in many of her engagements, but family was first with BJ.”

A student athlete herself, Jacket was involved in basketball and track during her time at Lincoln High School in Port Arthur. Jacket’s family said she made a positive impact both on and off the field.

“She was just a wonderful person, kind, loving compassionate,” Getwood said. “She was a strong disciplinarian as well. She believed in and promoted as well, family going to school and getting a college education.”

After graduating high school, Jacket went on to study and graduate from Tuskegee University. She later joined Prairie View A&M as a swimming coach and started the Lady Panthers. The team won many awards.

Jacket gained her international fame during the 1992 Olympics. It was there that she led her team to win 10 medals in Barcelona.

Memorabilia from Jacket is displayed at the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Employees at the museum fondly remember Jacket as an amazing woman who never forgot where she came from.

“Just a remarkable person, she didn't forget mom,” Tom Neal, Gulf Coast Museum director, said. “She had a car she drove in college that she continued to drive till the last day. She fell in love with sports but built a home here for her mom in Port Arthur. She never forgot home or her hometown.”

Friends, family and fans of Jacket said her contributions and impact on not only Southeast Texas, but also the country will never be forgotten.

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