Founder of the world famous Bill Jackson's sporting goods store in Pinellas dead at 98

Outdoorsman loved skiing and scuba diving

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - Over the last six decades, Bill Jackson grew a small store stocked with military surplus from MacDill Air force base into a 38,000-square-foot mecca for outdoorsmen of all varieties: fisherman, hunters, campers, divers, hikers and skiers.  

Al and Carol Cormier from Massachusetts heard about Bill Jackson's store from friends at home.

"We told them we're vacationing in Florida, and they say, 'We got to stop off at Bill Jackson's.'"

Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure practically introduced scuba diving to Florida in the 1950's. He put in classrooms and an indoor pool for diving, kayaking and fly fishing classes. Even in sunny Pinellas County, Jackson's  specialized in winter sports. His indoor ski slope was even featured in a 1980's Visa commercial.

But if you want to understand the legacy of Bill Jackson you won't find it on the store shelves.

"He's a nice guy who works hard and people see that," said Darry Jackson, still speaking in the present tense. It was just yesterday that Jackson had to tell his close-knit employees the news of his father's passing .

"They were crying and hugging each other," Jackson said. "We're very close. We're friends."

So in a store where employees are friends and customers are fans, it may not be quite right to call Bill Jackson a businessman. He knew how to get them in the door. But his son says what he really enjoyed was getting people out of doors.

"I think my dad saw this as being something that would be fun," his son said. "He likes adventure and wanted to do something exciting and we never looked at this as being a business--just a fun thing we have and we do."

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