Born on January 31, 1919, Jackie Robinson became the first student at UCLA to earn four Athletic letters (basketball, football, track and baseball). But he was more than just a great athlete, he was part of a new generation of Africa American that intended to stand up to the Jim Crow status quo that existed everywhere in America.
During the Second World War he was nearly court-martialed when he refused to play on the football team at Fort Hood in Texas, an act of protest prompted by having been forced to move to the back of an army bus.
His best sport was baseball and after the war he played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. At the East West All Star game in 1945 he was approached by Clyde Sukeforth, a scout for Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers. After secret negotiations Rickey announced I October of 1945 that he had signed Robinson. Jackie would report to the Montreal Royals of the International League for the 1946 season.
On April 9, 1947 he was promoted to the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first black player to play in the modern major leagues. In ten years as a Dodger, he hit .311, stole 197 bases, had 1518 hits in 1382 games and played in six World Series. In 1955 he helped the Dodgers to their only World Series win.
His performance on the field and his ability to handle the pressures of his role became an inspiration to all who fought bigotry. He was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility. After baseball he helped found the Freedom National Bank in Harlem and became a major civil rights leader.
The pressures on him, that he appeared to handle with such grace, eventually took their toll. Jackie Robinson died in 1972 at the young age of 52.