The Biloxi branch of the NAACP’s Baseball Diversity Committee hosted a tribute and awards program in honor of the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier on Saturday.
The general theme of this event was “70 Years Later: Robinson’s Impact Still Memorable and Significant.”
The tribute to Robinson included a 30-minute film, a historical reflection by the committee’s chairman, Gordon Jackson, and a panel discussion involving former members of the Biloxi Dodgers and the Southern Negro League.
Jackson gave a chronology of Robinson’s rise from Pasadena City College to UCLA where he was a four-sport athlete to his service in the U.S. Army, where with the help of Joe Louis, Robinson was commissioned as a lieutenant.
Jackson said that many view Robinson and the integration of baseball as the beginning of the civil rights movement.
“If you look at it, Brown versus the Board of Education came seven years later (1954),” Jackson said.
The Spirit of Jackie Robinson Awards was presented to Jennifer Crosslin, Elizabeth Englebretson and Allytra Perryman for their work with East Biloxi in Motion, an organization that advocates for the rights of residents in East Biloxi affected by road construction in their neighborhood and resulting illnesses.
Also receiving The Spirit of Jackie Robinson Awards were Rev. Ken Maurice Davis of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Robert James of Stone County and Ya-Sin Shabazz of Hijra House.
Another highlight of the program was the panel discussion involving former members of the Biloxi Dodgers baseball team. Johnny Thompson and Gerald Jacobs recalled their careers with humor.
“I wore that uniform, and my wife thought I was somebody,” said Thompson. “And here I was just a shipyard worker.”
“Our outfield was called the Blue Angels,” said Jacobs, a former airman. “We were called Blue Angels for a reason: we didn’t let anything drop.”
Kay Horne, daughter of the founder and owner of the Biloxi Dodgers, said that she was “overwhelmed.”
“Right now I am fighting back tears. I am just taking it all in. Tonight when I get to the park, it’s going to be a different story. It’s all overwhelming,” Horne said.
At MGM Park on Saturday evening, the Biloxi Shuckers were paying tribute to the Biloxi Dodgers by wearing their uniforms in a game against the Pensacola Wahoos.