Jackie Robinson was born Jan 31, 1919 in Cairo, Ga., and moved to Pasadena, Calif. with his family just one year later. As a young student at John Muir Technical High School, he excelled in baseball and track, and took his talents with him to UCLA to continue playing baseball and running track, as well as playing football and basketball. To this day, he is still the only athlete in UCLA’s history to have lettered in four sports.
In April 1942, Robinson was drafted into the United States Army. While serving, he challenged the Army to include African American soldiers in Officer Candidate School, after which he was accepted and commissioned as a second lieutenant. On Aug. 2, 1944, he was arrested in Fort Hood, Texas for sitting in the front of an Army bus; he was found not guilty of all charges in court and was honorably discharged later that year due to an ankle injury.
In the spring of 1945, Robinson joined the Kansas City Monarchs, a baseball team in the Negro Leagues. In October of the same year, Branch Rickey, the President and General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Robinson to play with the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ farm team at the time.
On Feb. 10, 1946, Robinson married Rachel Isum in Los Angeles, six years after meeting as students at UCLA. In November of that year, the couple’s first son, Jackie Jr. was born.
After signing a contract just five days earlier, Jackie Robinson made his legendary debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, becoming the first African American to play for a major league team. Following a successful first season, he won Sporting News’ first-ever “Rookie of the Year Award” that September, proving to the world his talent and determination in the face of adversity.
At the time, many professional players would take on jobs in the off-season to support their families, and Robinson was no exception. In November 1948, he and Roy Campanella worked as coaches and counselors in the Boy’s Work Department of the Harlem YMCA, demonstrating their commitment to giving back to the community.