Will Dexter Jackson, head of Baltimore’s Jackson Oil Co. and Vietnam War veteran, dies

Will Dexter Jackson, who started a fuel oil company with a 1957 truck and grew it to a top nationally owned business, died of an apparent stroke Oct. 11 in Arrington, Virginia. He was 76 and lived in Lutherville.

His wife, Cathy Ann, said he was walking with family members when he was stricken.


Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, he was the son of Wythers Profit Isaiah Jackson, a Bethlehem Steel worker, and Jennie Elizabeth Bowling Jackson, a homemaker.

He and his family moved to Cherry Hill and became members of First Baptist Church of Cherry Hill.


He attended the old Carter G. Woodson Elementary School and was a 1966 graduate of Carver Vocational Technical High School, where he wrestled.

Mr. Jackson then joined the Navy and served during the Vietnam War. He worked on helicopters and was stationed in the Mediterranean. While at what is today Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Tennessee, he met his future wife, Cathy Ann Barrentine.

“His favorite story was how I invited him to church at Noah Chapel AME with my family,” his wife said.

They married April 20, 1969, at that chapel.

In 1972, he completed his tour of duty and returned to Baltimore. He began working with Baltimore Gas and Electric and joined his father’s home heating oil delivery service. The two used $1,500 the senior Jackson had saved from overtime at Bethlehem Steel to buy a single oil truck, a 1957 Ford.

“Will was a serious-minded businessman whose desire was to build a company owned by African Americans to improve the lives of city and state residents,” said Milton A. Dugger Jr., a New York Life Insurance manager and business associate. “He was focused on the task at hand. He was known for caring for people. By 1982, Mr. Jackson was featured in The New York Life Insurance Company’s annual report.”

In 1974, Mr. Jackson began operating Jackson Oil Co. without his father. By 1982, Black Enterprise magazine named Jackson Oil “one of the top 10 growth companies.”

A 1984 Sun profile of Mr. Jackson said, “At 36, his youthful face brings to mind the impetuous Huckleberry Finn character who with utter faith in his fellow man explores the world intent on achieving success.”


The article noted that Mr. Jackson had trouble expanding because he was then not well known in business circles. He was, however, gaining customers.

“Mr. Jackson got out of the anger mode and became methodical,” the article said.

Mr. Jackson, in the 1984 Sun story, said that a friend, Leslie Lewis, a banker, opened financial doors. Mr. Jackson secured a $100,000 Equitable Trust Co. loan and with this additional capital, his business took off. He then opened an office on York Road in Govans.

“He was a terrific businessman. He started with nothing and made it into something. He was ahead of his time in the oil business and lenders and suppliers did not help him out. He faced racism and discrimination,” said Daniel Henson, a real estate developer and former Baltimore housing commissioner. “He was always upbeat, happy and never looked back.”

During a cold snap in the 1970s, he delivered oil on Christmas Day.

“If people called and said they had no oil, or had a broken furnace, he worked holidays and weekends to help,” his wife said. “He built a good business. It was primarily a Black business, but he had some white customers. His motto was ‘Dependability you can trust in.’”


“It was New Year’s Day before he opened his holiday gifts,” the 1984 article said.

In 1982, the Small Business Administration honored Mr. Jackson and his wife at a White House reception.

“We were ushered into a ceremonial room. We had lunch. We met the vice president, George H.W Bush,” said his wife.

Mr. Jackson also took on other ventures. With a partner, he opened JD Ribs in the 5000 block of York Road, a transportation company and a Jackson filling station at Baltimore and Hilton streets.

The Morning Sun


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He retired from the oil business nearly 20 years ago.

Mr. Jackson was a board member of the old Provident Hospital and the Harbor Bank of Maryland.


He was also an honorary member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.

Mr. Jackson joined Christian Unity, served as a trustee and was ordained a deacon at Christian Unity Temple in Baltimore. In 1999, he joined the City Temple of Baltimore.

He enjoyed travel and playing cards with family.

A funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday at City Temple of Baltimore at 317 Dolphin St.

Survivors include his wife, Cathy Ann Jackson, who worked in health care; a daughter, Jeanine Elizabeth Jackson, of Baltimore; two sons, Will Dexter Jackson Jr., of Jacksonville, Florida, and Marcus Jackson, of Baltimore; a brother, John Rice, of Chester, Pennsylvania; and four grandchildren.

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