SI Vault
Gary Smith
February 15, 1988
Former lightweight champ Beau Jack lives out his legend
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 15, 1988

Still Fighting Old Wars

Former lightweight champ Beau Jack lives out his legend

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

"Who do you live with?"

"Nobody. Myself."


"One-room place, few blocks from here. Don't need nothin' else."

I asked what he did alone at night.

"I play blackjack against a dead man's hand," he said. "When I win, I put the cards on my side. He wins, I put 'em on his side. Funny, 99 times out of a hundred, the dead man wins."

Carefully he reached under a desk in his shabby corner cubicle, pulled out his boxing plaques and awards, and tucked them into a black bag. He placed it on his shoulder, locked up the gym and headed home. A block away, he paused. At the night air, he threw a pair of punches.

Most of the newspaper stories about Beau Jack were yellowed and smelled like your grandfather's attic. Gingerly I held them under a light, to learn how a life starts that ends this way.

He was born in 1921 on a Georgia farm where the roosters scratched at dust and the breeze banged the doors. His mother and father gave up trying to love when he was trying to crawl, so his grandma, Evie Mixom, raised him. She called him Beau Jack instead of Sidney Walker, and did there have to be a reason? Evie told people that Beau would be a fighter or a preacher. She knew what most smart folks didn't, that furthest opposites were the closest kind of kin.

By the time he was eight, Beau would awake at five each morning so he could walk the 3� miles to Augusta and be the first at Ninth and Broad, the best shoeshine corner spot because the cotton farmers entered the city there. The money he earned made him a target, and one day he came home in tears. Five boys had threatened him into surrendering the three dollars he had earned, he sobbed to his grandmother. Evie took off all his clothes and beat him. "You better fight till the blood runs out your shoes," she said. "No Walker is supposed to be runnin' nowhere."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12