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Rachel and Jackie Robinson

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Jackie and Rachel Robinson in 1947

Brooklyn Dodger, and rookie of the year, Jackie Robinson are shown backstage at the Apollo Theater, Harlem, with his wife Rachel, 1947. He was appearing as part of a musical comedy group.

Photo: FPG / Archive Photos / Getty Images
Jackie Robinson made history, but he didn't do it alone. He had his wife, Rachel, by his side throughout their journey together.
Fast Marriage Facts - Jackie and Rachel
Met: 1941.
Married: February 1946.
Marriage Ended: 1976, Jackie's death.
First Marriage: Yes.

Did You Know?
Although Rachel lost her son in 1971, her husband in 1972, and her mother in 1973, she didn't allow her grief to stop her from honoring and continuing Jackie's legacy.

Born:

Jack Roosevelt Robinson: January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia.

Rachel Annetta Isum: July 19, 1922 in Los Angeles, California.

Died:

Jackie: At the age of 53, Jackie died "from heart problems and diabetes complications" on October 24, 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut.

How Jackie and Rachel Met:

A mutual friend, Ray Bartlett, introduced Rachel and Jackie to one another in 1941 in Kerckhoff Hall at UCLA. After they called off their first engagement in 1943, Jackie and Rachel were engaged again in 1944.
Rachel: “I thought he was arrogant because of the way he stood in the backfield with his hands on his hips. That’s the one trait that I just can’t stand in an individual. So I was very surprised at how he presented himself when I actually met him ... Jack was quiet, confident, friendly and had a beautiful smile, just the opposite of what I had anticipated ... I was just so relieved to see that he was a human being that I could admire.”
Source: Cynthia Lee. "Rachel Robinson to receive UCLA's highest hoonor." UCLA.edu. 5/05/2009.

Wedding Date and Information:

Jackie and Rachel were married on February 10, 1946 at the Independent Church in Los Angeles, California. Their friend Reverend Karl Downs of Texas performed the ceremony.

     Rachel and Jackie Wedding Photo

Rachel: “We had a terrible honeymoon. We were bumped from two planes when white passengers were put on. We had to stay out and wait. We finally had to take a bus to Daytona Beach. We were rushing all the way, trying to get there on time.”
Source: Cynthia Lee. "Rachel Robinson to receive UCLA's highest honor." UCLA.edu. 5/05/2009.

Children:

Rachel and Jackie had three children.
  • Jack Robinson, Jr: Born in 1946. In 1971, at the age of 24, Jack died in a car accident.
  • Sharon Robinson: Born in 1950.
  • David Robinson: Born in 1952.

Residences:

Jackie and Rachel lived many years in Stamford, Connecticut. Rachel later moved to a 60-acre farm in Salem, Connecticut.

Occupations:

Jackie: Professional baseball player, businessman, civil rights pioneer, served in WWII as a second lieutenant in the Army, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Rachel: Psychiatric nurse, activist, author, Assistant Professor at Yale School of Nursing, Director of Nursing, founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and began the Jackie Robinson Development Corporation to build housing for low- and moderate-income families.

Rachel: "My life, our family's life was plunged into grief. The foundation grew out of my mourning and my wish to hold on to [Jackie's] legacy, to continue our journey."
Source: Kostya Kennedy. "Keeper Of The Flame." SportsIllustrated.cnn.com. 4/16/2012.

Quotes About the Marriage of Jackie and Rachel Robinson:

"SHE HAS been without Jackie for nearly 40 years, eight years longer than she knew him. In that time she has at once embraced the role of a great man's widow, protected and carried on his legacy, and built her own identity, leading a pointed second life centered on her work with the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Her stature in and outside of baseball — last month Rachel was invited to the White House by a fifth president, for a small, private gathering with Barack Obama — stems from the significance of her achievements and from a fine blend of diplomacy and moral conviction. They're the same traits that defined her when she was standing close by Jackie, inspiring and often guiding him over their 32 years of courtship and marriage."
Source: Kostya Kennedy. "Keeper Of The Flame." SportsIllustrated.cnn.com. 4/16/2012.

Cynthia Lee: "When the name-calling, hate mail and death threats persisted, the couple developed their own rules for survival. Their home, they vowed, would be a place of refuge for them and their three children. 'I always felt very protective toward him,' she recalled. 'I went to every home game.' But it was on the drive home when they would 'debrief about what had happened, what we saw, what we heard. Before we got home, we had all those kinds of talks because home was a place where we needed to relax and not have to deal with the tensions of the outside world.'”
Source: Cynthia Lee. "Rachel Robinson to receive UCLA's highest honor." UCLA.edu. 5/05/2009.

Jackie: "Rae and I have never had a deeply serious conflict. We do not have a storybook marriage full of sweetness and light. But we are both very grateful that our love for each other has been strong enough for us to give each other comfort through good and bad tiimes. One of the factors that could have threatened our marriage if we hadn't applied patience and understanding to its solution had to do with Rae's professional career ... She has a strong, independent spirit, and she wanted to be accepted as an individual in her own right. To be very honest, if I had my way, Rachel would not have a job. But having my way would constitute selfishness as well as insensitivity to her needs as a person."
Source: Jackie Robinson, Alfred Duckett. I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson. 2003 edition. pgs. 158-159.

Jackie: "Rachel and I are not given to sloppy sentimentalism. But we can honestly say that each of us has stood at the center of the other's existence; that we have honored and loved each other; that we have never broken our marriage contract and that we wouldn't trade a day of it -- not the sorrows or joys -- for all the gold in the world."
Source: Jackie Robinson, Alfred Duckett. I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson. 2003 edition. pg. 269.

pg 269

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