Born: Dec. 26, 1934 in Port Arthur, Texas
College and Olympic track coach Barbara Jean Jacket began her athletic career playing softball with high school students at age 10 in 1944.
She was a 1954 graduate of Lincoln High School, in Port Arthur, Texas, where she participated in basketball and track. After graduating from Tuskegee Institute in 1958, Jacket began coaching track and field. Her 1965 to 1991 teams claimed 8 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) outdoor titles and two indoor titles; won national titles in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the U.S. Track and Field Federation; won 8 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) cross country titles, nine indoor titles, and five outdoor SWAC titles. Jacket was named SWAC Coach of the Year on 23 occasions and NAIA Coach of the Year five times. Her teams won 23 SWAC championships, and Jacket tutored 57 All-Americans. In 1990, she became the only women athletic director in the SWAC when she was named to the position at Prairie View.
As coach of the 1992 U.S. Women's Olympic Track Team, Ms. Jacket had the enviable task of coaching such greats as long jumper Jackie Joyner-Kersee and sprinters Gwen Torrance, Gail Devers, and Evelyn Ashford. The Women's team won 4 Gold Medals, 3 Silver Medals, and 3 Bronze Medals, more than any group since 1956. She was the second Black female to coach an Olympic team; the first was her track coach at Tuskegee, Dr. Nell Jackson, who coached in 1956. They also set a record in the 400-meter relay.
Jacket worked at Prairie View A&M University for more than 30 years, including 25 years as head women’s track and field and cross country coach and five years as the university’s athletics director.