Writer Chris Lamb shares the inspiring story of 1904 Ohio Wesleyan alumnus Branch Rickey, who vowed to take a stand against segregation after witnessing its devasting impact on fellow OWU student Charles Thomas.
Rickey witnessed the despair when Thomas was denied hotel lodging while traveling with the OWU baseball team in South Bend, Indiana.
In Rickey’s words: “He looked at me and said, ‘It’s my skin. If I could just tear it off, I’d be like everybody else. It’s my skin; it’s my skin, Mr.
Rickey!’ ” At that moment, Rickey vowed that if he ever had the opportunity to help end segregation, he would do so without hesitation.
A man of his word, Rickey changed history when, as president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, he signed Jackie Robinson. In April 1947, Robinson took the field wearing No. 42 in his first Major League game. The courage and vision of both Rickey and Robinson helped to end racial segregation in professional sports and set the stage for the U.S. Civil Rights movement.
In recognition of Rickey’s contributions, ESPN honored him as the “Most Influential Sports Figure of the 20th Century.” In 2005, U.S. President George W. Bush awarded Robinson the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can award a civilian.
Read The New York Times article here.