H e stood his ground. However … Oscar Epps and others who knew him called it stubbornness.
“His stubbornness is what was unique about him,” said Epps, an Omega Psi Phi fraternity brother and close friend. “In terms of discussions we would have, we both would say we were right and after discussion, he still would not give in.”
He spoke his mind, Carolyn Collier said about her close friend since their days in the early 1970s as students at Grambling State University.
“If it was his opinion, he stuck with it, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, sometimes hard-headed, sometimes a lot hard-headed.”
The foundation of his reputation was built on his forth-right approach to people and life.
“It is hard to find someone who is straightforward,” said attorney John Belton. “He was honest about who he was and where he stood. That is unique in today’s society. He was very honorable. You knew where he stood. You can respect a person like that.”
Strong-willed is how Dr. Mildred Gallot described him. “He was determined to have his way about things,” said Gallot, retired head of the History Department at Grambling State University where he taught for more than 30 years.
It was this force of will and determination about life and education that forged the Grambling brand known as Dr. Jimmy McJamerson. He was driven by a passion for truth, justice, and love for all humankind.
He stood his ground – on issues that were important to him, on the need for knowledge of African and African American history, and on the importance of family and friendship.
The ground where he first stood was in his hometown of Ferriday, La., in the Mississippi Delta, a region labeled by the federal government as the poorest in the nation.
The first in his family to go to college, he often reminded students that he did not learn to read until he was in the third grade. He said reading opened the world to him. His message to the young people who he often spoke to: “If I can do it, you can do it. It is never too late. But you have to do it.”
He was determined to do things to improve himself and he wanted the same for other young African Americans whose lives he touched as a history professor, poet and motivational speaker.
His first road out of the poverty of the black soil of the Mississippi Delta was reading and history -a lesson he taught until the end.
Dr. Gallot recognized, early on, his passion for making sure students understood the role African Americans played in the history of this country and the world.
“I think he will be remembered as a person who tried to impart his knowledge of history to those with whom he came in touch,” said Gallot who had worked with him since 1978 when he returned to his alma mater as a history teacher.
She said McJamerson went out of his way to ensure that black history was included in the required history courses he taught.
“Many other teachers simply used the textbook that did not have a lot about African American history,” Gallot said. “Women and blacks were left out. He made a point of including them. We even had to write a handbook (to include women and blacks).”
“He was passionate about African and African American history,” said Dr. Roshunda Belton, the current head of the History Department at GSU. “He was so passionate that students understand their history and their roots. That was why he loved Grambling so much and was so passionate about preserving the history of Grambling.
She said he often told his students they needed to know who they were so they would know where they were going.
Belton said McJamerson’s lessons were not all about history; most were about life.
She recalled the time a student came to her office complaining about and asking why he was put out of a class.
“I knew right away he was talking about Dr. McJamerson,” Belton said. “Because his pants were sagging, the cap on his head was tilted to the side and he had on earrings, I said to myself, ‘I know why.'”
Belton said she had a conference with the student and McJamerson where the passionate professor explained to the student that he could not succeed in life with that type of appearance.
“The student came to class the next time pants up, earrings out and cap off,” she said. “He has been a good student ever since.”
For students in history, there was no avoiding the history and life lessons of Dr. McJamerson. He taught three of the required courses in the department.
“He had the class that everybody had to take, but some didn’t want to take,” said Micholas Thompson, a GSU graduate student in social science concentrating in history. “He was one of the toughest history professors. I was one of the students who wanted to take his class. At the end of the semester you would learn something about yourself, your race and the school.”
History graduate Khris Hobbs echoed, “He did not play about education. In his class, you couldn’t be half-stepping. You always had to come to class with your A-game or he would call you out on it.”
“When I first met him, I knew then that I wanted to teach history as he did so greatly,” Hobbs said. “I am forever grateful for him and Dr. Nanthalia McJamerson.
McJamerson’s commitment to the well being of humanity permeated every aspect of his life. Collier explained: “If you were J-Mac’s friend, you were his friend. No matter what you did, you were his friend. It did not matter about who you were, your job; it was your character that he always looked at. A friend to the end no matter what your faults, he took you the way you were. If he could encourage you, he did.”
Epps said, “His greatest contribution was Jimmy. He gave of himself. He enjoyed the notoriety. He wanted to be in the lime light, but he gave of himself.”
By the way, all who knew him agree, despite his stubborn streak, most of the time, Dr. Jimmy McJamerson was right.
He stood his ground.
Words of Rememberance
Dr. Jimmy McJamerson, aka “JMc”, “Bubba”, and as I called him with all affection, “Ayatollah”, was a man of many interests, and strong opinions. Early on, I realized that praise from him was praise indeed. Conversely, if something required his opinion, and he kept quiet, you were grateful, and avoided meeting that “stare” of his. Jimmy grabbed life with both hands and refused to sit down, step to the back, or back down from it. History, art, music, spirituality, poetry, teaching, gardening, Omega Psi Phi, and Grambling State University were only a few of his many passions and outlets. His tremendous capacity to love family (including Nan, Jimmy, Nicole, the grandkids, and a host of non-related family), will not be forgotten. Goodbye my brother, you taught us how to live fully on your terms, and may your enormous spirit live on in all of us.
– Kathryn Newman
“Black folks don’t understand that our creativity is a natural resource.” In my 42 years on this planet I’ve only heard two people utter those words: my father and Dr. Jimmy McJamerson. Dr. McJamerson, or J-Mac, as we called him, did not believe in wasting potential, time, conversation or opportunity. To him, every moment offered something to seize upon for the betterment on one’s life and the overall cultural currency of Black people. He was serious and expected those he engaged with to be just as serious and committed to being their very best… all of the time. This was at the heart of every conversation we shared over 24 years. Always challenging, probing, and looking for ways to forge ahead with new ideas and platforms. J-Mac embraced the world wide to produce a home studio radio show to share his love for music, poetry and historical conversation two years before Internet radio became a popular medium across the world. He wasn’t sharing this to brag, but to probe my young mind and see how we could expound upon his discovery. This was in 2008, and that was when I truly understood why J-Mac would often chastise me when I wasn’t in touch as often by phone or visits. Family and community as institutions can only remain healthy and grow through constant engagement. Not isolation and solitude. For J-Mac, communication was key. I am happy to have learned and utilized that lesson well before he passed away. I am even happier to have told Dr. Jimmy McJamerson that I love and appreciate him and all what he has meant to me while he was alive and well.
Peace Be Upon You, J-Mac.
– Allen S. Gordon
“[Dr. McJamerson] was a brilliant man. He had a way with words like a bird’s wings had a way with the sky.”
– Johnathan Irvin
“Dr. McJamerson was a very affluent black man. He made me realize that as black men we have to have a passion for being great men and leaders in our community. I can remember him kicking me out of class because I had a hat on; then making me stand in front of the class and explain to them why I should be able to join the class again. That was a moment that exemplified what type of man he was, he was a man of dignity and respect. May God bless his soul…RIP”
– Gary Frazier
Las Vegas, NV.
“Dr. McJamerson was a very dedicated, powerful and influential teacher to me. He motivated and pushed you to think and be more than you ever thought you could. Dr. McJamerson made my experience at Grambling a very memorable one and a gave me a deeper appreciation for my history.
– Kendyl Thompson
Imagine if you will, a young African-American male goes off to attend a Historically Black University. He is seeking a teacher to help guide him into becoming a man and gain knowledge of himself and his people. Well, I was that young man, and Dr. Jimmy McJamerson was that teacher. No words can describe that influential time in my life. I am very thankful that I got the opportunity to express my respect and love of our relationship to him face to face. I end by saying, now that Dr. Jmc has crossed over into the realm of the ancestors; I look forward to meeting up with him again on the next plane of existence. Hotep (Peace) Grambling Family.
– Walter Davis
He has always been “Mack” to me. Our relationship exceeded that of fraternity brothers over the past 20 years, to a position where we were simply family, through both good and bad times. The greatest moments often came when we used our A-type personalities to overcome moments of frustration, often to assist me. During recent years I realized how serious his health issues had become. However, his ability to persevere was beyond anything I could have hoped for. Although I have lost my dear friend, he will forever be a part of my life experiences. Truly, friendship is essential to the soul. I now must rely on one of his favorite expressions: “Life goes on.”
– J. Edward Penny
Though we are comforted by the fact that our brother Jimmy is now with the Lord our God, there are no words to express our sadness over this untimely loss. Jimmy was an extraordinary individual who believed in excellence to the smallest detail . He was a mentor to those who were searching , an inspiration to the discouraged , a friend who’s limits had no boundaries and a sterling example of what a Man should be. Thank -you for sharing your life , your passions , your friendship, your wisdom , and your love with us . Thank -you for inspiring those around you to always reach for the impossible.
– Lisa Hobdy-Martin
JMc was not tall in stature, but he was always the tallest in the room. His presence was felt because he spoke with authority and he spoke the truth. He spoke with an intelligence that amazed his students, peers and those who only met him in passing. He was the tallest in the room because he was bold and never backed down to the challenges put before him. Whether it was political or just dealing with people he deemed “special” he fought with an internal vigor to prove his point and right the wrongs around him. And what made my little friend a giant amongst men was his love for mankind. His compassion and friendship could never be measured in length or width or on a man’s scale. If he loved you, he would give you his last. He would stand in the gap for you until you got to the other side of whatever you were dealing with. That is why I always looked up to him when he walked in the room.
– Eric Robinson
I know through our communication that Jimmy surmounted many a battle, triumphed over adversity, and always maintained a positive attitude and overcame injustice and inequity on every front.
– Connie Perdreau
Director, Haggerty English Language Program
State University of New York New Paltz, N.Y.
I am reflecting on all of the people Jimmy touched, students mentored and lives changed during his professional career. I feel so blessed that Jimmy and Nan have allowed me to be a part of their family.
– Gwen Duhon
Associate Professor of Education
McNeese State University Lake Charles, La.
Thank you for unselfishly educating a nation and for being so bold about it. Thanks for pursuing your dreams and goals and for using what you have acquired to serve a nation of young servant-leaders. Thank you for never quitting when you faced great challenges that could hinder your planting seasons. Thanks for standing firmly on the High expectations of your students and never budging when we attempted to complain about rigor. Thank you for believing in my dreams so, that you afforded me numerous opportunities to get closer to them. Thanks for sharing your Beautiful Queen with me as a mother and mentor.
You are a brilliant, bold, intelligent King whose tutelage I am most grateful for. And as your journey as a formal educator has come full circle, may that cycle continue with students like myself. I pledge to always seek knowledge and wisdom formally and informally, and to pay it forward as you have done for me. I can never repay you for the ways in which you have contributed to excellence, but I can share what you have given me.
– Genta Hayes
M. Ed. 2013 University of Minnesota Minneapolis
Grambling State University will not be the same without him.
– Reggie Pointer
Assistant Professor of Art
Howard University Washington, D.C.
Daddy, let me start by saying thank you for all the love, knowledge, pride, courage, wisdom, sense of community, and strength you instilled in me. Dad, you’re my hero and my number one inspiration in this life as I carry on without you to guide me. You taught me how to be a fearless Black man in the face of adversity, regardless of the situation. You also taught me to keep my chin up, because I am a McJamerson! You made me a brave fighter, and I thank you.
Sir, I need you to know that your life’s purpose to teach, your legacy, and your powerful inspirational words will live on forever through me, and God willing, my children. I will teach them about their one-
of-a-kind, “diamond in the rough” grandfather. You gave me a moral compass to navigate my life the righteous way.
You used to say, “You only have one father.” So I say to you, it’s been an honor, a privilege, and a blessing to have you as mine. Pop, you did it all and you did it your way. I am so proud of you. I love you more than words can describe.
All who knew you were enhanced by your bold presence. I miss you so much already, but I’m comforted by knowing you are now pain-free, going up yonder with God now.
“Jimmy, Jimmy! Oh, Jimmy Mc, when are you coming back…”
Jimmy McJamerson II
My father was a small man, only about 5’7″ or so, but he more than made up for that. He had a big voice, and a big attitude to match. He was the only person I have ever met whose ‘inside voice’ was actually louder than his ‘outside voice!’ My childhood is filled with the sound of his roar-at some politician on TV, at some music he liked, at his students (and his children)… He would face down anything, challenge anyone, and never even considered the idea that he would be outmatched, or outclassed. It just meant that he would work harder, and roar louder. He would pit his will against the will of whatever (or whoever) was in his way, and usually his was stronger! That was his way.
My father loved big. Once he called someone his friend, they were his friends for life-unless he in- formed them otherwise. He loved his wife big-he was always calling me, telling me about some surprise gift he had for her, or some special thing he was going to do for her. He loved his children hard. He was not satisfied with a “once a week” telephone correspondence. He would call several times a week-and several times a day, if he didn’t reach me the first time! He would argue with us over points of ethics, or some social issue of the time. It took me a long time to understand that the arguments them- selves were inconsequential in his mind-what Daddy was interested in was the way our minds worked. He was interested in strengthening our will. I think he figured that if we could stand up to him, we could face down anything (or anyone) else that came our way.
My father had big dreams, and big plans. It wasn’t enough to want to write, or like to argue-I was destined to be a best-seller, or the finest lawyer in the country! (I’m neither, but he forgave me.) He didn’t stop there, though. He loved Grambling State University in a way you seldom see in professors anymore. Teaching at the university was not just his job, it was his home and his life’s work. He had big dreams and plans for every student he ever taught, and dreamed of a country transformed by powerful young Black people, who he had somehow touched along the way. He taught many people to believe in themselves, and push themselves farther than they ever thought they could go. He was an inspiration to all who knew him. Many in this town and at this university owe him much, and his happy roar will be sorely missed. He was a small man, my father–but he was larger than life.
You are an amazing professor. You have truly been an inspiration to me. I am not so selfish as to think only to me but I know to the many students that have passed through the hallowed halls of Grambling State University. Your passion for history has awakened the social consciousness of many students as they made decisions to impact global society. Your passion for education has awakened the consciousness of many students as they made determinations on their academic path.
Perhaps it was a kind word that you expressed by way of poetry or your excellent culinary skills demonstrated as you and Mrs. McJamerson hosted students in your home; Although hard to capture exactly what it is, I can assuredly say you have truly been a blessing! I salute you for the many accomplishments you have achieved. I applaud your many contributions made to Grambling State University. Grambling State University, and general humanity, is in a better state because of you.
Thank you, Dr. McJamerson, for all that you have done.
William M. Merritt IV
Mississippi Department of Education
Class of 1997
The good news is that sometimes the bond between friends is stronger than any damage that can be done to them.
Bob & Phyllis Smith
BlackSmith Cards and Gifts
Palm Desert, Calif.
Jimmy was more than a friend to the Whitmore Family. He was a confidant and counselor during hours of distress who added no sweetness in his words but “fed servings” of poetry and wisdom that Guided and directed us to strength and maturity in family cohesiveness. Despite his height, he possessed the demeanor of an individual that made one notice his presence, even to the degree that our youngest daughter, Franchesca, called him “The King”. This tenacious man who did not falter when the pressures of life tried to distract him from his goals left a legacy that will live forever. He was one who knew how to fight without surrender, demand without pleading and love to the end.
Prince Sr., Barbara., Rekeshia (and Chris),
Prince II and Franchesca