Jackie Robinson, Civil Rights Pioneer (note the epitaph and brief biography)

Jackie Robinson, Civil Rights Pioneer (note the epitaph and brief biography)
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Image by Tony Fischer Photography
Jack Robinson was the first African-American ballplayer in 20th-century Major League Baseball. His contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers ended 80 years of baseball segregation. He endured racial hatred and discrimination throughout his career with great composure and dignity. Robinson’s accomplishments extend far beyond his baseball achievements, however. Some examples:

In John Muir High School , Robinson lettered in four sports. He was a Pacific Coast (California) state tennis champion, a star quarterback in football, a talented guard in basketball and a track-and-field award-winning broad jumper. At Pasadena Junior College he once again was a star in four sports.

At UCLA, Jackie became the first university athlete to letter in four sports and played in the 1939 Rose Bowl against USC, which ended in a 0-0 tie. The 1939 UCLA football team had many African-American players, also a ground-breaking civil rights team.

He was drafted into the Army in 1942 and experienced discrimination almost immediately. being told to move, literally, to the "back of the bus" of a segregated Army transport. Jackie refused and subsequently was put on trial for insubordination (this was during the period when the Armed Services were segregated, prior to 1948). Eventually he was found innocent by an all-white jury. Jackie was released with an Honorable Discharge.

On the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie was constantly throughout his career (1947-1957) the victim of race hatred, both on the ball field and by the fans. He had been brought up to the Major Leagues by Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, to add badly needed talent to the team. He was expected to "take it" and have the "guts not to fight back", a difficult burden for this pioneer of civil rights, as pitchers threw speeding baseballs at his head and base runners tried to spike and tackle him on the base paths (Robinson played much of his career at second base). Some fans sent him hate mail and he was under constant threat from them, especially since they were in the stands where he played.

After his baseball career, he was on the Board of Directors for the Chock Full O’ Nuts Coffee Company and a member of the board of other organizations such as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Robinson started a construction company to help low-income families, too.

He was a political activist who supported Governor Nelson Rockefeller and – I hesitate to say this – Richard Nixon. Suffice it to say that Jackie was an old-school liberal Republican, and he gets a "pass" from me on it.

Jackie battled health crisis after health crisis throughout his life. This includes fighting diabetes, heart problems and near-blindness. He was saddened by his son’s death as a result of an accident. Jackie Junior died one year before his father and had battled drug problems his whole adult life.

Jackie died, aged just 53, of heart failure. This great man is buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, in the same borough where he played ball at Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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