The main person to influence Jackie Robinson was Karl Downs, a young minister. Karl Downs had the ability to communicate with others spiritually. According to Jackie Karl was fun to be with and always participated in sports with the children of the neighborhood. Jackie often visited Karl in times of personal crisis. “Karl was like a father to me,” stated Jackie, “he was always there when I needed him most.” Karl’s presence and dedication meant more to Jackie then anyone could fathom, considering Jackie’s father left him and his family at a young age.
Karl presented Jackie with valuable advice by telling him to attend college. Jackie felt wary about leaving his mother home fending for herself and the rest of the family alone. For this reason Jackie felt obligated to stay close to home. Jackie decided to attend UCLA, which was very close to his home. Jackie, while playing sports at UCLA, volunteered to be a Sunday school teacher. Jackie felt a certain obligation to give something back to the youth of the neighborhood, as did Karl Downs. Jackie knew he could be a positive influence for kids that were just like him. Leading the young kids to God would teach them that violence is wrong, and that they could accomplish whatever they wanted.
While attending UCLA Jackie became the schools first four letter man in history. Jackie played basketball, football, baseball, and track. After two years at UCLA Jackie decided to leave. Jackie was convinced that no amount of education would help a black man get a job. Mallie, Jackie mother, was still working very hard and Jackie felt it was his responsibility to relinquish some of her hardships. UCLA was upset with Jackie when he told them the news, and they begged him to stay. Even with the university’s offer of more financial aid Jackie declined.
The thought of becoming an athletic director entered Jackie’s mind. Jackie was filled with joy when he was around sports and he loved teaching children. Through Pat Ahearn, athletic director for National Youth Administration, Jackie was offered a job as assistant athletic director at their work camp in Atascadero, California. Most of the young people that Jackie would with were much like him, poor or from broken homes. The job, however, was short lived because World War II broke out and the U.S.government shut down all NYA projects.
Jackie was now out of a job, and in 1940 no major league or basketball clubs hired black people. The only thing Jackie could do was play football for the Honolulu Bears. The Bears were not major league, but integrated. The football season ended in December 5, 1941; two days later the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor while Jackie was on his way home. Jackie knew he would not be home for long because of the draft. Sure enough Jackie was shipped out 5 months later to Fort Riley, Kansas. Jackie faced racists and segregation of whites and blacks, while in the army. One example of this is that Jackie was asked to play on the football team for the army, but when the University of Missouri came to play they said they would not play a team with a black player on it. The army did not want to tell Jackie, so they told Jackie he could take a leave of absence to visit his family.
When Jackie returned he was ordered to pick his football uniform, and when he did he told the colonel he refused to play on a team that would not let him play every game because he was black. He colonel told Jackie he could force him, and Jackie replied, “you could, but you can’t force me to give it my all, and you wouldn’t want someone on your team that doesn’t give his heart.” Jackie always stuck up for what he believed in, even if he had to face the consequences. Finally, Jackie speaking up for what he believed in got him in trouble. Jackie was on a bus to a hospital, due to an injured ankle.
Jackie was in the front of the bus and was instructed to get into the back by the driver. Naturally, Jackie refused because he knew his rights. When the bus came to a stop two military police approached Jackie and asked him if he would come with them and talk to the captain. Jackie obligated, feeling the captain would understand the rights enforced by the military. Jackie was sadly mistaken. The captain was a racist. The captain fabricated a lie by informing his commanding officer that Jackie was drunk, disorderly, and trying to start a riot. Luckily, Jackie obtained an honest lawyer and had the court martial charges dropped. Then in 1944 Jackie Robinson was released from the army via honorable discharge.