Sarah Jackson was the only beloved child of Johnnie Lee and Ollis Cooks. She was born in Ramer, Alabama on Sunday, January 8, 1939. The family moved to Birmingham, Alabama and she attended Hudson Elementary and graduated from A. H. Parker High School in 1957.
Her parents brought her up in the admonition of the Lord. They worshiped at Tabernacle Baptist Church and later moved their membership to New Pilgrim Baptist Church. She deepened her Christian walk as she traveled to Buffalo, New York, Los Angeles, California and Alpharetta, Georgia. She returned to Birmingham, Alabama and joined Faith Chapel Christian Center, where she worshiped with her one and only daughter, Rae.
After high school Sarah moved to Buffalo, New York to live with her Aunt Josie. She attended the University of Buffalo, where she studied drama and speech. She is a graduate of Grado Charm and Modeling School, and of Ferrel’s school of Charm & Modeling. As an articulate, talented and beautifully poised young lady she was crown Miss Buffalo and was featured in the Newspaper as Model of the week.
Sarah met and married Raymond Smith and they were blessed with four children, Raejeana, Reginald, Raymond, Jr. and Roderick. Sarah was a true change agent, which began with her changing her name from Sarah Jackson Smith to Sara Jay Smith. Sara and Raymond Sr. enjoyed entertaining and were the owners of the Rams Horn Club. She was a member of the Buffalo Negro Models Guild and co-owner of Ebony School of Charm and Modeling, the first and only Black Charm School in Buffalo, New York.
Sara returned to Birmingham as a trail blazer in the Magic City’s Media Industry. She was the Public Service Director for television station WBMG-TV42 and was the co-host of Title Focus 72, a public service program. Sara Jay was the station’s first Female African American Morning Talk Show Host. She was a renowned public speaker and was often the guest speaker at churches throughout the Birmingham area. She spent a number of years as owner of Sara Jay’s School of Charm & Modeling on Graymont Avenue and was a featured writer for a column, “From The Desk of Sara Jay”, in the Birmingham Times.
Sara moved to Los Angeles, California to further her studies and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from the University of Southern California. She was employed at Hebrew Union College and pursued several entrepreneurial ventures in Los Angeles. It was in California that Sara met and married John Hilson; they later moved to Atlanta, Georgia to be closer to Sara’s mother, Johnnie Lee, in Birmingham. She and John enjoyed over 30 years together and as time progressed and John became ill, they moved to Birmingham, Alabama.
Sara had a zest for fashion, music, dancing and writing. She enjoyed spending time with her family and exploring holistic health. She found great joy in educating others on what she learned and used her knowledge to enhance the quality of life of everyone around her. Sara volunteered with the Pantry Ministry at Faith Chapel and was a member of “Seniors on the Move” at Villa Maria, the Independent Living Center, where she resided.
Sara made a peaceful transition into eternal rest on Saturday, July 7, 2018, at St. Vincent’s East Hospital. She was preceded in death by her son Reginald and husband John Hilson.
Left to cherish her memory is her daughter Raejeana (Leroy, Sr.) Coates of Birmingham, Alabama, two sons Raymond Jr. of Tempe, Arizona and Roderick of Buffalo, New York; seven grandchildren; five great grandchildren, and a host of other family and friends.