Jackie Walker led Knoxville’s Fulton High 1967 team to an undefeated season and won all available awards. He entered UT in the fall of 1968 and was eligible to play on the varsity team his sophomore year (1969)—an opportunity of which he took full advantage. The first African American SEC Player to be named All-American in 1970, he repeated in 1971 by being named to four All-America teams. In 1971 he also became the first African American SEC football captain. (Gary Theiler and Phillip Fulmer were elected alternate captains.)
At UT he earned the record for most interceptions run back for touchdowns (5). He was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and participated in theater. In summer 1971 he appeared in Fiddler on the Roof. But he was not granted the role of Othello in the Theatre Department’s spring production—he was told he was too short—and the play was closed on its opening night by protests of the casting of a Caucasian as Othello.
Following his senior year, he was drafted by the San Francisco ’49ers but was cut before he played a game, and he then failed in an attempt to catch on with the Washington Redskins. He moved to Atlanta and worked for the Recreation Department. He made no secret of the fact that he was gay, following his senior year, confirming rumors that had swirled on campus. He learned he was HIV-positive in 1998 and died of complications from AIDS in 2002. He was inducted into Knoxville’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.