Thomas Jefferson Jackson was born in Wayne County, North Carolina on 3 August 1927. Raised in Duplin County, Jeff was the second eldest son of Henry and Gertie Jackson. After his brother, Charles, enlisted in the Navy, Jeff soon followed. However, he entered the Navy after providing a fictitious age to recruiting officials. Jeff was only 16 years old at the time of his enlistment.
Jeff was sent to the Pacific Theater of the War after receiving basic training. His ship received heavy damage from Japanese forces and eventually sank. He was soon pulled from the waters of the Pacific by sailors of the Japanese Imperial Navy and held as a Prisoner of War in Tokyo. After twenty-two months, he was repatriated. As a result of his imprisonment and harsh treatment, he was reduced to a mere eighty-five pounds.
Making the most of his situation, Jeff became a professional jockey. He traveled extensively throughout the country and finally settled in California. In the 1960’s Jeff made a startling discovery. He found that the Commandant of the Prisoner of War camp was alive and well, residing in California also.
In 1994, Jeff returned to North Carolina to be with his family after deterioration of his health. He passed away in January, 1999, surrounded by his family, after a series of health problems.