The life and career of Jack Kelley

FRESNO, Calif.

"Uh, this is daddy; this is a young Jack Kelley. He was 17 years old right there."

Keith Kelley remembers his father Jack as a man of many talents. But, he says his dad's biggest accomplishment in life, was marrying his mom, Rosa. The two met in the 1940's, while Jack was a student at what used to be called Fresno State College.

Keith Kelley said, "There was only six African Americans on the campus at the time, and he saw this one woman walk across the campus with long beautiful black hair and he told his friend, that's going to be my wife."

Jack Kelley stood out as a star basketball, baseball and football player at the school. He left for a couple years, while serving in the Army during World War II. After returning, he began his crusade as a trailblazer. Former Fresno councilman Les Kimber recalls how Jack always encouraged the African American youth to succeed.

Les Kimber said, "Jack would go out of his way to take kids, sit down with their parents, and explain what this kid was getting into and what needs to be done."

Jack Kelley also left his mark within the Fresno Police Department. He worked here from 1949 to 1970. A statue was erected in his honor.

Jerry Dyer said, "The inscription on Jack's statue was appropriate. A man of vision and action. Jack was considered to be a cop's cop."

Jack was one of the first African Americans to serve on the force. In 1993, he and his wife started the African American Cultural Museum. Former Fresno County superintendent, Dr. Peter Mehas says the project was and still is a positive influence on the community.

Dr. Peter Mehas said, "He wanted the youth of our community, not just the African American kids to take pride in the accomplishments of African American youth."

And that, friends and family say was his passion. Teaching others the importance of equality and respect.

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