1950 - 2002

Jackie Walker was born in Knoxville, TN. on April 14, 1950. His older brother, Marshall, was among the first Black students to attend Fulton High School, where his football prowess earned him a scholarship to Florida A&M. Jackie joined the Fulton squad in 1965 and was named All-State in his senior year. Walker planned to follow his brother to Florida A&M, but was offered a scholarship to Tennessee, becoming one of the school’s first black football players. By his sophomore year he was a starting linebacker. In his junior season, Walker led the team in tackles and was named an All-American. His senior year Walker's teammates elected him team captain, making him the first African American to lead a Southeastern Conference team. He was again named an All-American. During his college career, Walker intercepted 11 passes and still shares the N.C.A.A. title for the most number of career interceptions converted into touchdowns. He also led the school with tackles and assists. While Walker never publicly came out as gay, by the end of his senior year, his family, teammates and coaches were aware of his sexual orientation. In 1972, Walker was a sixth round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers. At 6'0", 200 pounds, he was considered too small to be an NFL linebacker, instead the 49ers attempted to make him a strong safety. The position change hurt, and Walker was cut just prior to the start of the season. Though it was never substantiated, Walker believed he was cut because the 49ers discovered he was gay. In 1974, he abandoned his attempts at an NFL career and moved to Atlanta. After contracting HIV in 1998, he cashed in part of his life insurance policy and spent his final years traveling. He died of complications from AIDS on December 5, 2002. He was inducted into the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity African American Black

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch AIDS Era (1980-present) Information Age (1970-present) Post-Stonewall Era (1974-1980)

Field(s) of Contribution


Sports & Fitness

US History

Commemorations & Honors

Two-time College Football All-American

Posthumous Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame Inductee (2008)

Posthumous Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Inductee (2011)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Allo Kerstein
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell