Jimbo Jackson, a Florida principal who spoke out in 2020 against a state order for schools to return to in-person schooling, has died following complications from long COVID. He was 55.
More than 700 mourners reportedly turned out for the June 2 funeral for Jackson, who was principal of Fort Braden Elementary in Tallahassee, a preK-8 school. He also served as a county commissioner in Leon County, Fla.
The well-loved school leader is among at least 1,306 active and retired K-12 educators and personnel who have died of COVID-19, as of July 14, 2022, according to a count by Education Week.
Jackson and his wife both contracted the virus in July 2020. When the state of Florida began urging schools to reopen in the fall of that year despite increasing COVID cases, he advised parents to choose remote instruction for their kids instead, according to CNN.
In the 2020 iCNN interview, Jackson said, “I think our greatest concern is the safety of our staff and our students and our connected school families. With our recent state mandate to have face-to-face and brick-and-mortar learning, we have extreme concerns.”
In the interview, he said the virus had led to the deaths of two members of his school community, a former employee, and the relative of a staff member.
“We’re no longer just a number and just a statistic,” he said. “It’s hit really close to home.”
Almost two years after contracting the virus, Jackson died on May 28 from complications from long COVID, according to multiple media reports of his death.
According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 5 Americans who contract COVID go on to develop long COVID, defined as “symptoms lasting three or more months after first contracting the virus, and that they didn’t have prior to their COVID-19 infection.”
Adults in Jackson’s age range, between 50-59, are three times more likely to get long COVID than those aged 80 and older, according to June 2022 Centers for Disease Control analysis of U.S. Census data.
A beloved educator
Jackson began his career as a teacher at Fort Braden Elementary School in 1992, and became the school’s principal in 2006. He then went on to run for the position of Leon County Commissioner in 2016, and served in both roles for nearly six years.
In December 2020, Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna honored Jackson as the district’s principal of the month. In an announcement of Jackson’s award, the superintendent noted that the principal had compassionately led his community through major grief “with the sudden and tragic loss of a valued staff member to COVID-19. Despite those immense and direct challenges associated with the pandemic, the school banded together with Jackson at the helm to provide students and families support both mentally, emotionally, and educationally through virtual learning tools.”
Jackson is survived by his wife Beth, two daughters, and two stepsons.
“Jimbo, true to form, fought like hell and kept his trademark sense of humor and amazing outlook on life throughout,” says Leon County Administrator Vince Long, in a statement. “He was a special part of our Leon County family.”
According to a press release from the Leon County Commission, Jackson was credited with projects such as, “providing critical community-wide aid during the COVID-19 pandemic,” creating a local park, installing a playground, and other improvements during his time as commissioner.
He was a valued asset to the Tallahassee community and a man who played many roles, according to Leon County Commission Chairman Bill Proctor, who referred to him as a “colleague, treasured educator, friend, and true leader.”
“Throughout his tenure on this Commission, as he did his entire life, Jimbo tirelessly fought for this community and especially his district,” Proctor said in a newsletter.
Jackson’s funeral service drew more than 700 people, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“Coach Jackson was a mentor to my children when we first moved to this community over 20 years ago,” said one such post from Anne Rabon. “From coach at school to coaching girls softball, I was proud to see him rise through our community. He always had time for the children.”