Men who are able to show any amount in their beliefs and honesty are willing to admit that when they meet the right woman to guide them through rough times, the man has “married up.” Jackie Robinson sure did.
Jackie married Rachel Isum in February 1946. Both were students at UCLA. Rachel was a graduate in 1945 and earned a degree in nursing. After marrying, Jackie was back playing professional baseball, only this time, with white players. He joined a AAA team to test his skills and to see if he could make it to the majors — something that Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey knew already; he was there to assess Robinson's ability to be tolerant of the inevitable racism that would be exhibited by players as well as managers and players. With the help of Rachel Robinson, he was able to pass the test.
One year later, Robinson was in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But, Jackie and Rachel suffered ever more abuse. Death threats were as frequent as the shout “play ball. All over the world, in every city, Rachel was a comforter and loved Jackie through the worst of it. The toll on Jackie was horrific; however, Rachel had to endure the same senseless and racist hatred, but they remained a unit throughout.
In the event that he (rightfully) was tempted to retaliate against the abuse and racist remarks, Rachel steadied the ship. When Jackie left at the age of 56, Rachel got her Masters in nursing psychiatrics. She then became a clinician and researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine before becoming an associate professor of the Yale School of Nursing.
When Jackie passed away at the age of 72, she formed her company, the Jackie Robinson Development Corp., which was instrumental in establishing housing for the poorest Americans and also established the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The foundation's ongoing mission is to offer leadership and education opportunities for students from minority backgrounds. With the help of this foundation, more than 1,000 students have received assistance and it has had a remarkable success and a 97 percent completion rate.
At the age of 99 (and just two months away from 100) years old, Rachel Robinson remains a powerhouse. On Saturday, it marked Jackie Robinson Day.
Every year, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier of Major League Baseball with a day on which every player is wearing his number '42.' Rachel Robinson shows up at Dodger Stadium each year, coming from her home in Connecticut and celebrating with the other players in baseball. Every year, I am amazed by Rachel Robinson. She is an absolute pleasure to be around. There is a glow within her eyes. You can feel the smile and warmth despite the many years of brutal abuse she and Jackie suffered.
At 99, she is an enviable woman not only because she is radiant with grace and love and beauty, but also because her remarkable life on her own has not been second to Jackie.
Yes, she was married to someone who was one of the most well-known Americans ever. Jackie Robinson is rightfully honored each year, but without Rachel, his soulmate and rock, I'm not convinced there could have been Jackie Robinson — certainly not the legend we have today.
As I said, Jackie married up.