EDITOR’S NOTE: Sandra Jackson is quite knowledgeable about the intense basketball and football rivalries between Melrose and Hamilton High Schools.
Good for her.
Not only was Jackson a fixture on Hamilton’s majorette squad during her freshman year until her graduation from the school in 1973 but, according to the native Memphian and First Lady of West Irving Church of God In Christ, she is what she describes as a “three generation” product of the historic institution in the heart of South Memphis.
To her credit, the former Sandra Denise Griffin garnered local headlines after her unprecedented win as Miss Black Memphis, an unlikely milestone that transpired roughly 10 months after Memphis State was drubbed, 87-66, by Bill Walton and mighty UCLA in the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game. A freshman at MSU (now the University of Memphis) at the time, Jackson, a mother of three and grandmother of two who celebrated her 60th birthday on Monday, spoke exclusively with MemphiSport senior writer Andre Johnson during a Q & A segment, recalling the events surrounding her win in a beauty pageant she figured she had no business entering. Boy, was she wrong for all the right reasons.
ANDRE: You described your winning Miss Black Memphis as a fluke? Why is that?
SANDRA: I didn’t know anything about the pageant. My mother had done business with Term City (Furniture), and they had girls who entered, but needed sponsors. The owner (Term City’s Paul Holmes) said he wanted to pick a sponsor, so he sent the pageant (organizer) to my house.
ANDRE: Did you actually welcome this idea, although you knew nothing about this pageant?
SANDRA: Well, I didn’t want to do it…straight up.
ANDRE: Straight up (giggling)?
SANDRA: (Holmes) said to me, “If you don’t want to do it, I’m not going to sponsor it.” So I kind of thought about it.
ANDRE: And the rest, as they say, is history. You didn’t just enter this thing. You actually took to the stage, kicked the door down, and won it. What was your reaction?
SANDRA: I was in shock. I had convinced myself that I had no chance of winning.
ANDRE: So obviously, this was a worthy investment for the owner, you think?
SANDRA: He was excited. I did commercials for the store.
ANDRE: Now, you’ve expressed to me that this isn’t something you talk much about. Still, whenever you speak about your winning the pageant with people, what becomes the most frequently asked questions?
SANDRA: Well, usually, the first question they ask me is, “What did you do for your talent?”
ANDRE: In your opinion, would you say that your winning Miss Black Memphis is still a notable part of Memphis history four decades later?
SANDRA: After seeing the pictures that are still in The Commercial Appeal (newspaper), archives, I think it is.
ANDRE: In the wake of your unlikely first-place finish in the Miss Black Memphis pageant, what did that achievement do for you, particularly from a confidence standpoint?
SANDRA: Well, I forewent the Miss Black Tennessee pageant, but placed third runner-up for Miss Black America. It was an amazing experience for me. It kind of propelled me into the world. I had to go to a lot of affairs and engagements that I probably wouldn’t have been afforded to go.
ANDRE: Are you a sports fan?
SANDRA: Not really.
ANDRE: Not even a Cowboys fan?
SANDRA: I will support the Cowboys. But as far as that being my favorite team, I wouldn’t say that.
ANDRE: Oh wow. So it seems that even after 36 years of marriage to a devoted Cowboys fans, it seems that perhaps we’ve got a little house divided situation brewing in the Jackson household (chuckling)?
SANDRA: Well, I like the Miami Dolphins.
ANDRE: How did that come about? Were you a fan of (Hall of Fame quarterback) Dan Marino?
SANDRA: You know, I’m a girly girl. So I think it’s because of the water.
ANDRE: Well, dolphins are found in water, without question. Fair enough.
SANDRA: But I’ll attend a (Cowboys) game with him (Andrew Jackson, Jr.).
ANDRE: The Dolphins had a nice ending to last season and a somewhat decent offseason, considering they signed a number of key free agents. That said, would you predict them to reach the Super Bowl?
SANDRA: Well, I won’t predict them to go. I have to see something first.
ANDRE: Clearly, you have the edge over your husband when it comes to talking to the media.
SANDRA’S HUSBAND: She ought to. That was the field she was in for a while…radio and TV. I told her she should have stayed in it.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.