Brenda Lorraine Jackson, the mother of Dale Earnhardt Jr., has died at the age of 65. The sad announcement of Jackson’s passing came in a statement on her JR Racing’s official website. The posting said that Jackson had been battling cancer for some time.
Jackson was married to Dale Earnhardt Sr. from 1971 until 1977. The couple had two children, Kelley and Dale Jr. Jackson was the late NASCAR legend’s second wife, he had married and had a son, Kerry, with his first wife, Latane Brown in 1968. Following his divorce from Jackson, Earnhardt would marry Teresa Houston in 1982. The couple had a daughter, Taylor, born in 1988. Jackson would later remarry Norfolk firefighter, Willie Jackson.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jackson Was Known for Her ‘Sarcastic Musings & Straightforward Approach’
The statement announcing Jackson’s death paid tribute to her “sarcastic musings” and “straightforward approach.” The full press release read, “Known for her wit, charisma and unparalleled ability to cut to the heart of any matter, Jackson became an instant favorite to her friends and colleagues at JR Motorsports when she joined the company as an accounting specialist in 2004. Her sarcastic musings and straightforward approach injected a brand of humor at JR Motorsports that became part of its fabric as it grew into a full-time NASCAR racing operation in 2006 and a championship-winning organization in 2014.”
The statement went on to quote Jackson as having said in 2018, “I’m a very, very lucky woman, as I get to interact with my kids almost every day. I’ve got two bright, beautiful kids that I am very proud of. Kelley’s standards are very high. She conducts herself that way and she expects that of everyone else. Dale Jr. just gets bigger and bigger. I am very proud of his accomplishments, but as a mother, I am proudest of the way he handles himself with honesty and the way he cares about his family and his friends.”
2. Jackson Signed Over Custody of Her Kids After a Fire Destroyed Their Home
Jackson had two children with Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Jr. and an older daughter Kelley. The couple split shortly after Dale Jr. was born. Upon their divorce, the children went to live with Jackson. When Kelley Earnhardt was eight years old, the family’s home in Kannapolis, close to Concord Mills, burned down. As a result, Jackson signed over custody to the children’s father as she no longer had the financial means to support her children, according to Dale Jr.’s 2017 interview with Graham Bensinger.
In a later interview with Dan Patrick, Dale Jr. elaborated saying, “She made the very difficult choice to give up custody of me and my sister at that moment to my dad because she knew that he could provide for us and give us a better life.”
Jackson was the daughter of renowned NASCAR car builder, Robert Gee. Her father built cars for Dale Earnhardt Sr. While her sister, Sandra, was married to NASCAR crew chief Tony Eury for a time.
Dale Jr. denied there was a rift between his mother and his stepmother in a 2004 interview with the Baltimore Sun. In particular, Dale Jr. squashed a story that had been reported saying that Teresa Earnhardt didn’t want to fly with Jackson. Dale Jr. said, “Teresa wouldn’t be like that.”
3. Jackson Said She Would Have Been ‘Scared’ to Leave the Delivery Room Had She Not Given Birth to a Son
Jackson said that she would have been scared to leave the delivery room if she had not given birth to a boy. In a September 2017 USA Today interview, Jackson said that Dale Sr. had been adamant during her pregnancy that she was pregnant with a boy who would be named Dale Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was born in October 1974.
In the USA Today interview, Jackson described the moments after her son’s birth, “I can remember when he was born. I can remember when the doctor said, ‘You have a healthy boy.’ I just cried. I didn’t want to go back out there if it wasn’t a boy.” Following on from her divorce from Dale Earnhardt Sr., Jackson married Willie Jackson and moved to Chesapeake, Virginia. Willie Jackson was a firefighter who was based out of Norfolk. Following his retirement in 2004, the family moved to North Carolina where Jackson began working as an accountant for JR Racing.
Jackson’s granddaughter, Karsyn, paid tribute to her grandmother on Twitter writing, “My heart is so broken. But at the same time I am so glad you aren’t suffering anymore Mimi. Always your boo♥️.” Jackson had said in 2015, when Dale Jr. got engaged, that she was looking forward to her son having children. Jackson told Fox Sports, “I’m very excited for both of them. I’m happy. I know Dale (Jr.) is real excited, and him and Amy love each other very much. I am just looking forward to a wonderful future for the both of them, and hopefully a grandchild for me.”
4. Dale Jr. Paid the Perfect Tribute to His Mom on Mother’s Day in 2017
Dale Jr. celebrated Mother’s Day in 2017 by reading an emotional letter he wrote to his mom on ESPN. The NASCAR legend made reference to the fire which saw Jackson give up custody of her children saying, “You a single mother, us losing everything in a house fire. You gave custody of us two kids to our father, knowing that he could provide a promising future.”
Dale Jr. added that his mother would travel for 12 hours to visit her children during the summer and at Christmas, “I remember your Norfolk apartment floor covered in presents each Christmas.” He concluded by saying, “I’m thankful that we are together today, as I am older and wiser to appreciate the sacrifices that you made for us. You never failed at making me feel loved. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.” The twist comes when Dale Jr.’s mother appears from behind him and pair shared an emotional embrace.
A few years earlier, Dale Jr. admitted in an interview that he had a more casual attitude towards Mother’s Day saying of Jackson, “I got her some gifts last week when we were at Richmond. We’re just going to hang out together out by the pool and drink a couple beers I guess… She’s like that. Well, she drinks wine basically, but she’ll drink a beer. She’s cool, man.”
5. Jackson Said in 2017 That She Wanted Her Son to Retire
Jackson told USA Today in 2017 that she wanted her son to bow out of NASCAR due to the amount of head trauma he has suffered. Jackson said, “Because of his history of having concussions, one more could be catastrophic. He’s worked too hard. He doesn’t have to do it anymore, so go enjoy life.” Jackson said that she had noticed her son struggle in 2016 after he suffered a concussion in Michigan in June 2016. Jackson said Dale Jr. couldn’t “even walk a straight line.”