CAMDEN, NJ — Jacqueline Khan, known in the Camden community as “Jackie,” died of heart failure Monday at 91.
Her husband, Dr. Mustapha Khan, who practiced in Camden for over 50 years, died about a decade ago.
“It’s the end of a really important era,” Rick Khan, the eldest of five children, told TAPinto Camden. “She and my father devoted their lives to the people of Camden, saw themselves in service to people less fortune than ourselves, and really worked as an ambassador not just for the people of Camden but the future of everyone.”
Jackie Khan was born April 24, 1929, to Richard Ellis Driver, a barbershop owner, and Helen Birchette Driver, a homemaker and mother of two in the Germantown Section of Philadelphia. After graduating from Germantown High School in 1947, she would go on to pursue a career in nursing at Howard University.
Rick Khan co-founded the Crossroads Theatre Company in New Brunswick, one of the largest black theater companies in the country. He said his mother’s death reverberates farther than just Camden City.
Although she was born in Philadelphia, Jackie Khan moved to Camden when she was in her 30s. Here, she volunteered in the school district as part of a nursing program, and made various local contributions for Jack and Jill of America, the Links of Camden County, the NAACP and the South Camden YMCA.
“After nursing school, Jackie worked as a nurse at DC General Hospital in the maternity ward where she was told to put the white mothers in the white ward, and to put the colored mothers in the colored section to have their babies. Like clockwork Jackie then proceeded to put all of the white mothers in a colored ward and all of the colored mothers in the white word. ‘I just did it’ Jackie explained. ‘Even after they told me to stop. I kept doing it. Eventually, they gave up trying.’ And from that point forward, DC General Hospital’s maternity ward has been fully integrated,” said Mustapha Khan, the youngest son named after his father.
Pastor Amir Khan, a local activist in his own right, said Gov. Phil Murphy reached out shortly after his mother's death to send condolences.
Pastor Khan said he gleaned numerous lessons based on his mother’s advocacy.
“She was key with the desegregation of a Woolworth [in Washington D.C. in 1950] after they refused to serve her at the counter. After smashing the cone that she received at the back of the store on the counter, people made a stand. When they told her, ‘We don’t serve colored here,’ My mom responded, ‘I didn’t come here to eat colored, I came to eat ice cream,” Pastor Khan said, laughing.
His mother was pivotal in integrating the all-white American Medical Association of South Jersey, Pastor Khan said.
Rasheed Khan, 66, a doctor, said his mother would have been supportive no matter what career path he took.
“Still, her being a nurse and my dad being a physician, it was a medical household. My desires were always toward that goal,” Rasheed Khan said. “She was very instrumental for me, but I would say the greatest way she guided me was she convinced me to go into church service.”
The four brothers, and sister Sherena Khan, said they hope youth continue to seek out guidance from the previous generation and their sacrifices.
“This is the time to pass the baton,” said Pastor Khan. “We have an obligation, moral and civic to pass on this baton, and learn from our ancestors who worked so hard to get us to this point.”
A “Celebration of Life” graveside service will be held for Jackie Khan on Thursday at Noon. It will be held at Locust-wood Cemetery, 1500 Route 70 W, Cherry Hill.