Beau Jack (Sidney Walker, 1921-2000)
Sidney "Beau Jack" Walker was one of the greatest lightweight boxers of the 1940s and 1950s. Noted for his swarming style and high punch volume, the 5-foot-6-inch, 133-pound Jack boxed a record twenty-one main events at Madison Square Garden in New York and twice held the New York Boxing Commission world lightweight title.
Born April 1, 1921, in Waynesboro, Sidney Walker was reared in Augusta by his grandmother, Evie Mixom, who nicknamed him "Beau Jack." As a youth, he shined shoes at the corner of Ninth and Broad streets. Needing additional income, he began fighting battle royals at age fifteen. These contests, financed by wealthy whites for their own entertainment, pitted five to ten black men against one another in a ring. The last fighter standing received prize money. Jack won repeatedly despite his small stature. After winning a battle royal at the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, Jack began shining shoes there. Members of the club, including the legendary golfer Bobby Jones, befriended him and provided funds for his formal boxing training.
After retirement Jack operated a drive-in barbecue stand near Augusta, tended a small farm, and refereed wrestling matches in South Carolina. He later moved to Miami, Florida. His ring earnings depleted, Jack returned to shining shoes, operating a shoeshine concession at the famous Fontainebleau Hotel. He also tutored boxers at the Fifth Street Gym. Despite his poverty, he maintained that he deserved no pity: "I've been to the top of the mountain. I was champion of the world. I've worked hard all my life, and I'm happy doing what I'm doing." Jack died in Miami on February 9, 2000, of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1979, and he is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.