Olympic trailblazer from Port Arthur dies at 87

Published 2:03 pm Friday, January 7, 2022

Barbara Jacket, a Port Arthur native who earned an impressive amount titles and was the second Black woman to coach an Olympic team, died Thursday. She was 87.

“My aunt, Barbara Jacket, was a tough cookie, but took her last breath yesterday,” niece Dayna Caddell posted to social media Friday. “She led an amazing life full of accomplishments. This is one for the books…”

Jacket was born in 1934 in Port Arthur, where she “began her athletic career playing softball with high school students at age 10 in 1994,” according to information from the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

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She played basketball and ran track for Lincoln High School before graduating in 1954.

And following college, she began her coaching career.

From 1965 to 1991, her teams earned eight National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics outdoor titles, two indoor titles and national titles in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the U.S. Track and Field Federation, among many others, the museum explained on her Hall of Fame page.

Jacket was named Southwestern Athletic Conference Coach of the Year 23 times.

And in 1992, her Olympic team won four gold medals, three silver medals and three bronze medals — more than any team since 1956.

Afterward, the Southeast Texas native would go on to work and coach for more than 30 years at Prairie View A&M.

Currently, Jacket is a suggestion for the names of the Lincoln Middle School track, which the district plans to name soon in honor of a Port Arthur native.