Magnolia Bradley Jackson ‘44, Still Blazing Trails at 105 

Magnolia Jackson

Centenarian Magnolia Lee Bradley Jackson graced Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) as a special guest during this year's Florida Classic. At 105 years old, she is the university's oldest-living alumna.

Born on March 14, 1918, in Rochelle, a small, unincorporated community in southeast Alachua County, Florida, Jackson holds the distinction of being the last living child among the eleven born to the late Thomas and Maria Bradley.

Her intellectual prowess guided her through the challenges of the then all-Black Lincoln High School, where she graduated in 1935. Subsequently, Jackson matriculated at the then-Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in education in 1944.

Devoting over 40 years to the Alachua County School System as an educator, Jackson impacted the lives of countless Black children during her extensive teaching career. She proudly served as the principal of the historically-Black Rochelle Elementary School until its closure in 1977.

MagnoliaJackson

In the face of the indignities and limited opportunities in the Jim Crow South, Jackson, both as a student and teacher, triumphed over adversity. In an era when Florida allocated only 10 cents for Black children’s education for every dollar spent on white children's education, Jackson exemplified the transformative power of a Bethune-Cookman education.

As a student during the presidency of the university's Founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Jackson recognized the potential of Black education, even when forced into substandard conditions. Similar to the challenges faced by our Founder and countless other Black schoolchildren in the past, Jackson's students likely walked to school, yet she tirelessly addressed their material and immaterial needs.

At the celebration of Jackson's 105th birthday in March, Jackie Wilson remarked, "She named me and inspired me to be a teacher. Kids spoke so highly of my Aunt Mag. She is full of laughter and love."

Jackson successfully balanced her decorated career with a fulfilling home life after marrying World War II veteran Johnnie Jackson, whom she loved until his passing in 1995. The couple had one child, Kathy Jackson-Dyce.

Gladys Wright, Jackson's cousin, describes her as "the matriarch of the Bradley family," emphasizing her commitment to implementing quality learning for all students and motivating them to excel. 

The well-lived life of Magnolia Bradley Jackson stands as a testament to resilience, dedication, and the enduring impact of education. Wildcats everywhere are better because of her extraordinary example of a life that continues to be well-lived.