Willie Jacobs was born to Sanford and Lucile (Sellers) Jacobs in Arlington, Georgia, in 1947. His great-grandmother, Mary Jane Jacobs, served as the birth attendant. After some time in Georgia, Willie, his sister Geneva, and his parents relocated to Alabama.
The Crucial Years
Willie’s mother, a staunch believer in choices and consequences, urged his teacher to keep him in school after he failed to pass the third grade the first time around while the family was living in Alabama. Willie openly said that this incident resulted in a huge paradigm change in his quest for academic success and that he went on to get straight A’s from that point forward, even though many would view this as a significant setback and a cause of shame.
Moving to Florida
Finally settling in Jacksonville, Florida, Willie attended and graduated from S.P. Livingston Elementary. When Willie relocated from small-town Alabama to the city of Jacksonville, he encountered bullying for the first time. Willie remarked that he was a little different from other kids since he didn’t take being bullied lying down.
Sometimes he would come out on top, and other times he would come out on the losing end, but he always made it clear to his kids that giving up and surrendering his wealth was never an option. Willie’s father instilled in him the following maxim: “You don’t irritate another guy, and if he enables you to walk away from a battle, then you do so.
Willie B. Jacobs’s Academic Experiences
Willie, all through middle school, concentrated intensely on his studies. But after finding weightlifting as a teen, he trimmed down to a trim 160 pounds and drew the attention of the football coaches at Stanton Vocational High School. One of his coaches told Willie that he had to arrange gym as his final day class to be required to play football. Willie’s father, who believed football was stupid, refused to sign the required physical form. Thus Willie was returned home.
Major Turning Points
His mom, Lucile, was a working mom who put in a lot of hours so her two kids would be taken care of. As the eldest, Willie was responsible for ensuring his younger sister, who went by the nickname “Nev,” was safely inside the house as night fell and the streetlights came on. When pressed to name the defining moment of his life, Willie would always return to the day he spent with his father in eleventh grade.
The True Measure of a Man
Willie played football for Coach Gaither for two years before quitting after nearly killing a teammate in practice. Coach Gaither kept his promise to pay for Willie’s college tuition because of his outstanding character and academic success. So, Coach Gaither ensured that the rest of Willie’s schooling was covered by the scholarship he had already earned. Willie began his college career as an architecture major. Still, despite the university’s best efforts, he could never complete his internship at one of the local, Caucasian-owned architecture businesses. This was in the late 1960s.
Willie’s Lasting Legacy
Later in his career, Willie shifted gears to teach building construction trades at Pensacola Junior College. After fifteen years as an engineer at Bellsouth Communications, he became a licensed builder and founded Brankol Enterprises, Inc., a construction firm focusing on design, renovation, and remodelling. Willie led the construction industry as president of Brankol Enterprises.
The NE Florida Builders Association and the Florida Association of Home Inspectors counted him as a member. Willie was a facilitator for the City of Jacksonville Youth Build Program as an instructor in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to his deep passion for building construction and design and teaching and mentoring. He secured contracts with the city of Jacksonville, allowing him to restore several properties in the city’s historic Springfield neighbourhood. On top of that, Willie came up with the concept, construction budget, and low price for the projected 41-unit Smith Pointe neighbourhood on the northern edge of Jacksonville, FL.
Real Estate and Construction Market Collapse
Willie decided to accept a position at Florida State Community College in Jacksonville after the real estate and construction market collapsed in the early 2000s. This allowed him to continue providing for his beloved family, which eventually included relocating his elderly mother and baby sister after she lost her eyesight. Eventually, Willie was promoted to Senior Plant Supervisor for the north campus. He oversaw a team of 28, oversaw the inventory and property for 700,000 square feet of buildings throughout the 160-acre complex, and oversaw all restoration and remodelling projects.
Willie Was Always a Visionary
In addition to playing a pivotal part in the layout and development of what is now Florida State College in Jacksonville, he also fulfilled a lifelong desire to purchase a large plot of land on which to construct the home that would serve as a haven for his family for the next three decades. The gentlemen of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. were impressed by Willie’s achievements and extended the fellowship of honorary brotherhood to him in 2021. Willie was a man of many achievements, but he was most proud of those in which he showed his family the utmost care and provided for them. At age sixteen, he fulfilled his promise to his father.
Raphael Tito Balbino, MD, and the Baptist AgeWell Center for Health staff provided excellent, compassionate care to Willie throughout his illness. The Duval and Clay County Community Hospice & Palliative Care staff and the exceptional nursing staff at the Hadlow Center – Community Hospice & Palliative Care were there for him in his final days.