Olympian Mack Robinson used to be mighty greater than ‘Jackie’s brother’

The 2 mountainous bronze sculptures in Centennial Square in downtown Pasadena, Calif., are equal in dimension. Every is 9 feet huge, 6 feet broad and 7 feet deep. Every weighs roughly 2,700 pounds. And each depicts a sports hero.

Two brothers are the topic of the tribute. The sculptures don’t depict their bodies however somewhat — tellingly — totally their heads, which no question essential to be their strongest resources when they overcame huge racial and socioeconomic boundaries within the pursuit of athletic feats.

Some of the 2 faces is familiar to all. Jackie Robinson is rightly celebrated now not precise in Centennial Square however all over because the man who, on April 15, 1947, broke Major League Baseball’s coloration barrier and helped usher within the American civil rights circulation. He is a recognizable myth.

But what of that diversified brother whose countenance is forged in shining bronze? How did he design to be memorialized in Pasadena with a tribute every bit as mountainous because the one afforded a baseball icon?

Whenever you don’t know the name Matthew “Mack” Robinson, it’s because he lived his existence within the shadows of two of basically the most eminent figures within the historical past of American sports. He used to be Jackie’s mountainous brother, and he used to be the man who, irrespective of matching an Olympic file within the 200-meter skedaddle on the 1936 Summer Games, performed 0.4 seconds within the serve of one more myth named Jesse Owens.

But Mack, who handed away in 2000, is publicly revered in Pasadena for a motive. He used to be now not precise a huge runner however a civic chief and a significant mentor to Jackie.

“I had the greatest respect for Mack,” Jackie wrote in his autobiography, “I Never Had It Made.”

This Jackie Robinson Day, it is rate exploring the vogue by which Mack both impressed his diminutive brother and later did justice to his memory, all whereas making a trace in his community.


Mack Robinson with his silver medal.

The first Shaded family to are dwelling on Pepper Boulevard in Pasadena arrived in 1920. Mallie Robinson had uprooted her four youngsters — sons Edgar, Frank, Mack and Jackie and daughter Willa Mae — from Cairo, Ga., after their father, Jerry, left the family. Esteem a whole lot of of thousands of diversified migrants, the Robinson family came West seeking one thing better.

What they chanced on, nonetheless, used to be segregation served California-vogue.

Pasadena used to be filthy rich and conservative and now not welcoming to its unique residents. Property used to be restricted to whites-totally in sure neighborhoods, and the community pool and the YMCA maintain been off-limits to Shaded families. Those early experiences of discrimination would shape the lives of both Mack, who used to be 6 when the family moved, and Jackie, who used to be 1. Mack would in the end earn it his mission to present a enhance to his attach of beginning, to region it precise. Jackie would hotfoot away Pasadena keeping a grudge and by no system scrutinize serve, forever tear now to not let any one bid him what he couldn’t terminate.

Sports maintain been an earn away for both brothers. And for Mack, video games of trace and scoot on the fundamental college playground supplied an early window into his natural athletic talent.

“We’d play ‘chasing the fox,’ and I’d must earn away of the ring and the complete class would start working after me,” Mack recalled in 1985. “After which I’d thought ways to swivel-hip and sidestep and tear in-between.”

Even supposing doctors warned him that his participation in sports might possibly perhaps perhaps be lethal because he had a heart ailment, he wouldn’t surrender. … The heart condition by no system defeated Mack.

Jackie Robinson in his autobiography

He first ran music competitively at Washington Junior High College, the attach he broke the city file within the 120-yard low hurdles. But when he arrived to John Muir High College, they wouldn’t let him flee.

“The doctors declared me ineligible because I had a heart murmur,” he stated. “I felt as if that they had truly damaged my heart.”

Mack quit college, selecting in its attach to work routine jobs with his mom, washing house windows and waxing flooring. And if his athletic profession had ended there, who is aware of if his youthful brother Jackie would maintain had the early inspiration to passionately pursue his possess athletic route?

In a roundabout intention, though, Mack did assume to switch serve to school. And they did let him flee. But totally after his mom agreed to label a waiver relinquishing the college of all responsibility must quiet Mack’s heart give out.

“So she signed ’em, and I ran,” Mack stated. “And I gained every 100-yard skedaddle I was in, in 1934, and I grew to became the undefeated order champion. That One year, I region a college and league file within the long jump. That used to be in 1934, and that file wasn’t damaged till 1966.”

His youthful brother paid attention.

“Even supposing doctors warned him that his participation in sports might possibly perhaps perhaps be lethal because he had a heart ailment,” Jackie wrote in his autobiography, “he wouldn’t surrender. … The heart condition by no system defeated Mack.”

Mack did now not dare dream of reaching the 1936 Summer Olympics. But he sprinted his intention into them, regardless.

While attending Pasadena Junior College, Mack participated in a regional closing within the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 100-meter relay crew on the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The highest finishers qualified to design to the finals in Unique York, the attach the U.S. Olympic music crew used to be region.

Now not totally did Mack design, however he bested Eddie Tolan’s then-Olympic file of 21.2 seconds within the 200.

Mack had precise $150 to his name — money raised by some Pasadena businesspeople — when he left California for Unique York, and $99 of that used to be spent on his put collectively ticket. He arrived to the finals at Randalls Island with totally the beat-up music spikes he had aged whereas competing at Pasadena Junior College.

But he used to be assured.

“They wanted to be ready for me, because I was ready for them,” he stated of his competitors. “At some stage in my music profession, I was by no system out of condition. I was by no system injured, and I felt that the totally intention to be successful is to be ready and to preserve in shape. And I stayed in shape.”

Within the finals — in a precursor to what would transpire in Berlin — Mack used to be bested by Owens within the 200-meter by a foot. But he made the crew and headed off to an Olympics in disagreement to any diversified in historical past.


Mack Robinson wins the 220-yard skedaddle on the nationwide collegiate music and topic meet on June 18, 1938, whereas attending the College of Oregon.

Red, white and shaded Nazi swastika flags hung in Berlin’s shop house windows within the summertime of 1936. German chancellor Adolf Hitler used to be overjoyed that the 1936 Olympic Games — the key to be televised — maintain been a possibility to expose to the complete world the supremacy of the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan flee. Völkischer Beobachter, the newspaper of the Nazi Occasion, opined that Jews and Shaded of us must quiet now not be allowed to compete. Germany’s Olympic teams maintain been simply about purged of non-Aryan athletes.

These maintain been the intimidating prerequisites Mack Robinson encountered when he arrived to Berlin. He additionally had to manage with racial incompatibility interior his possess crew. Mack later claimed that the coaches left him off the four-man 100-meter relay crew so as now to not maintain too many Shaded runners. Two Shaded runners — Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe — handled the key half of the relay, and two white runners — Foy Draper and Frank Wykoff — ran the serve half.

Though the relay crew gained the Olympic gold, Robinson couldn’t serve however feel slighted.

“There used to be a good deal of interior combating,” he recalled in 1985, “and a whole lot of now not easy feelings.”

On the other hand, Mack did earn to compete within the 200-meter skedaddle match, held at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on Aug. 3 and 4, 1936. Hitler used to be among the many roughly 100,000 of us within the crowd.

Mack, once extra wearing these self same successfully-aged spikes he had historical in junior college, gained his warmth with a time of 21.6 seconds, precise 0.4 seconds off Eddie Tolan’s Olympic trace and nil.6 seconds better than his next-closest competitor.

Within the quarterfinals, Mack tied Tolan’s file to complete first in his grouping. And within the semifinals, he tied the unique world file Owens had region in his quarterfinals flee — 21.1 seconds. Mack’s time used to be the finest of any semifinals participant, Owens included. He used to be one of eight to design to the finals.

The finals maintain been the attach Owens would serve cement his myth. Two days earlier, Owens had gained the 100-meter skedaddle with a time of 10.3 seconds. One day earlier, he had gained the long jump with a jump of 8.06 meters. With an improbable time of 20.7 seconds — or half a second better than Tolan’s Olympic file — Owens gained his third medal in as many days. His fourth would design as phase of the aforementioned 100-meter relay crew, four days later.

Those four medals, rubbed within the face of the German Führer, maintain been an unheard of Olympic haul by a music athlete, and Owens has been lionized as a result.

Mack, though, used to be precise within the serve of Owens within the 200, finishing in 21.1 seconds to beat the Netherlands’ Tinus Osendarp (21.3 seconds) for the silver. (Osendarp would hotfoot on to work for the German Security Provider and the Nazi Security Police within the deportation of Dutch Jews all over World Battle II.)

“I effect now not maintain any qualms about finishing second,” Robinson stated in that 1985 interview. “My silver medal has a good deal of meaning to me, and I judge it has as mighty meaning in it because the gold. But I judge the gold, to me, used to be taken away.”

It used to be Robinson’s contention that, had he been extra properly coached and been supplied with better sneakers, he might possibly perhaps also maintain overwhelmed Owens within the 200. While Robinson used to be wearing his damaged-in kicks, Owens wore a prototype of an Adidas music shoe made by company founder Adi Dassler himself.

Robinson stated that when he made the Olympic crew and used to be whisked off to Berlin, he did now not maintain the money to suit himself with better instruments.

“I was on the market on my possess,” Robinson stated. “I did desire a pair of spikes. I didn’t maintain a possibility to talk on the radio with Bill Henry, who used to be broadcasting serve to California. I completely would maintain requested friends in Pasadena to send me a pair of spikes or send me ample money so that you might possibly perhaps remove a pair of sneakers.”

No topic one thinks of Robinson’s belief that his gold used to be “taken away,” it’ll be stated with certainty that a Shaded athlete competing in Germany in 1936 used to be in no attach to earn requires. All Mack Robinson might possibly perhaps also terminate used to be utilize the Olympic stage to showcase his skills.

Gold or no gold, he had done precise that.


Mack Robinson finishes second within the serve of Jesse Owens on the 1936 Summer Olympics.

A hero’s welcome did now not anticipate Mack Robinson in his return to the US.

None of the 14 Shaded athletes decorated with an Olympic medal — a community that precipitated an furious Hitler to proclaim, “The American citizens will deserve to maintain been ashamed of themselves for permitting their medals to be gained by Negroes” — maintain been invited to the White Home. President Franklin D. Roosevelt hosted totally the white medal-winners from the U.S. crew.

While Jesse Owens did maintain a ticker-tape parade in his honor in lower Ny, the man who performed within the serve of him within the 200 returned quietly to Pasadena.

“If any one in Pasadena used to be proud for me, diversified than my family and terminate friends, they by no system showed it,” Mack once stated. “The totally time I was seen used to be when any individual requested me all over an assembly at college if I’d flee in opposition to a horse.”

Robinson returned to Pasadena Junior College for a One year, then transferred to the College of Oregon. He left college old to completing his physical education diploma in teach to earn a job and enhance his family — at the side of brother Jackie, who by then had made a reputation for himself as a letter-winner in four sports (baseball, basketball, football and music) at UCLA.

Mack took up modest work as a avenue sweeper in Pasadena, wearing his Olympic sweatshirt with “USA” on the front whereas he performed that humble job. And once extra, racism reared its gruesome head. When a assume ordered that the city of Pasadena desegregate its public swimming pools, the city retaliated by firing all its Shaded workers, Robinson included.

Such slights and injustices maintain been what sparked Jackie Robinson’s awkward relationship with his attach of beginning. When Jackie embarked upon his baseball mission, he left Pasadena within the serve of, returning totally to focus on with family. He went to this point as to disclose, per biographer Arnold Rampersad, that he most neatly-most unusual the segregated South to Pasadena.

“In Atlanta, I know what I’m in a position to terminate,” Robinson used to be quoted as announcing. “In Pasadena, I by no system knew.”

Mack took a obvious tack. In want to let mistreatment harden his heart and estrange him from the attach he grew up, he spent the rest of his existence attempting to better Pasadena whereas working a diversity of general jobs, at the side of as an usher at Dodger Stadium. He advocated in opposition to avenue crime and for the introduction of playgrounds and swimming pools. He helped restore peace within the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. He raised money for Olympic athletes. He volunteered for various civic organizations and adolescence groups, specifically within the horrified part Pasadena the attach he had grown up.

“A champion,” he once stated, “must quiet flip his rewards serve to the adolescence and give them a pat on the serve.”

Mack on a fashioned foundation showed up at Pasadena City Corridor to preserve concerns that maintain been essential to him.

“My dad used to be a effort within the neck to a good deal of the city officials,” his son Wayne says with fun. “Within the event that they knew Mack used to be coming down there, it used to be love, ‘Oh my God!’ My dad used to be an suggest for the northwest electorate in Pasadena. He fought for their rights.”

This — greater than the Olympic silver and greater than being Jackie Robinson’s brother — grew to became Mack Robinson’s legacy interior his attach of beginning.

The rest of the arena might possibly perhaps also paint him however it seen fit. Within his community, nonetheless, Mack used to be second to none.


Pictures courtesy Kathy Robinson Younger and Coffee Bluff Pictures.

Mack Robinson did admit to the frustration that can design with having an icon interior your family ranks.

“I’m getting awfully drained,” he once stated, “of being referred to precise as Jackie Robinson’s brother.”

On the other hand, Mack used to be delighted with his brother and what he supposed to society.

“I by no system seen a day the attach they maintain been upset or furious at every diversified, as an alternative of for when they talked about politics,” Mack’s son Wayne recalls. “[Mack] had precise admire for his brother. And I judge my uncle used to be motivated by my father. It wasn’t love my dad having a scrutinize serve. It used to be my uncle having a scrutinize forward and attempting to learn from my dad.”

In his later years, Mack effect his time and money toward making certain Jackie used to be properly celebrated. It’s now not easy to evaluate now that he has a day in his honor, now that his quantity is retired across Major League Baseball and now that there are constructions and ballparks across the nation which might possibly perhaps perhaps be named for him. But when Jackie used to be quiet dwelling, his impression used to be now not yet fully most unusual.

Four months old to Jackie’s death, when the baseball myth used to be weakened by heart illness and simply about blinded by diabetes, Mack visited his brother at his Stamford, Conn., house and proposed an thought.

“I requested him what he thought about having a statue built of him,” Mack recalled years later. “I believed it used to be time that he be acknowledged.”

Mack estimated the price of having a statue of Jackie placed near UCLA’s baseball stadium to be about $100,000. He figured donors would rise to the event.

Alas, they did now not. Within the instant aftermath of Jackie’s death and within the 11 years that followed, the mission went nowhere.

So, at last, Mack took matters into his possess hands, dipping into his possess financial savings and soliciting the serve of friends to earn an true tribute to his brother happen. The statue, which depicts Jackie within the on-deck region, used to be unveiled in 1985, out of doors Jackie Robinson Stadium.

“That statue is up,” Mack stated that One year, “however, financially, I’m within the hole. The statue has been paid for, however there’s an unpleasant lot of diversified extra monies that’s essential, and I’m quiet working on that a part of it. But it completely’s an very fair appropriate looking out existence-dimension statue of Jack.”

It took the admire, fortitude and interior most funds of a tear brother to earn that statue happen. As of late, there are extra eternal tributes to Jackie on UCLA’s campus within the originate of a statue of him in his football uniform out of doors the Rose Bowl and a monument of his quantity 42 out of doors the athletics and recreation complex that bears his name.

But Mack — the man whose most eminent second used to be finishing second — used to be the key to earn sure Jackie used to be given his due.

“The admire that Daddy had for his brother,” says Mack’s daughter Kathy Robinson Younger, “is manifested in that statue.”


Lengthy after his music days, Mack Robinson remained aggressive. His youngsters laugh about how briskly he would zip alongside the Los Angeles attach’s Arroyo Seco Parkway as if it maintain been the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“My dad had a bid about continually racing,” his son Wayne says. “He might possibly perhaps perhaps not stand any one being in front of him.”

And be it on the freeway or the Olympic music, Mack continually expected to complete first.

It’s now not too terrifying to be second-finest on this planet at what you’re doing, it will not be essential what it is. It system that totally one diversified particular person on this planet used to be better than you. That makes you better than an unpleasant lot of of us.

Mack Robinson

“He didn’t underestimate the particular person within the lane next to him, however he used to be now not interested in whether or now not they maintain been going to beat him or now not,” says his son Edward. “He used to be by no system in anguish. He had the sheer self assurance and the fortitude to disclose, ‘I precise must preserve.’”

So, yes, it bugged Mack to maintain performed second to Owens. But as miffed as Mack might possibly perhaps also maintain been about that result and the depraved sneakers he believed to maintain precipitated it, he quiet had the precise perspective on what he had completed.

“It’s now not too terrifying to be second-finest on this planet at what you’re doing, it will not be essential what it is,” he once stated. “It system that totally one diversified particular person on this planet used to be better than you. That makes you better than an unpleasant lot of of us.”

Mack and Owens maintained a relationship decades after they performed so terminate to 1 one more within the 200 meters. Mack’s daughter Kathy recalls that when Owens handed away in 1980, Mack drove greater than halfway across the nation (seemingly, over the rate limit) to be there for the funeral products and services in Chicago.

“The Olympic family is one thing routine,” Wayne says. “They compete in opposition to one one more, however there’s a bond between these athletes. It’s a bond that’s cemented by means of time.”


Mack Robinson sharing his 1936 Olympic 200 Meters Silver Medal, with his son Wayne in July 1968. (Portray by George F. Alexander for Newsweek)

Over the years, Robinson remained enthusiastic with the U.S. Olympic Committee. One of his proudest moments came in 1984, when he used to be chosen to be one of many athletes who carried the Olympic flag into L.A. Memorial Coliseum all over the opening ceremony of the Summer Games. He additionally on a fashioned foundation volunteered for the Particular Olympics and would earn his youngsters enthusiastic, too.

That motive grew to became mighty extra essential to the family when Brittni Hamilton, the daughter of Mack’s daughter Kathy, used to be recognized with Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological dysfunction, at 2 years extinct. Though confined to a wheelchair, Brittni has been ready to preserve Mack’s spirit intact by carrying on the enhance of the Particular Olympics.

“We had the Particular Olympics World Games in 2015 in Los Angeles,” Kathy says. “Brittni used to be given the title of VIP Ambassador. She would serve hand out the medals across the necks of the winners.”

So the instance Mack region lives on, decades after he handed away at age 85 from complications from diabetes, kidney failure and pneumonia. He used to be survived by his wife, Delano, who, old to her possess death in August 2021, persisted Mack’s civic tasks in Pasadena. And this day, his youngsters and grandchildren make certain that his tale continues to learn.

“His legacy, to me, is that of someone who can rise from nothing,” Edward says, “and hotfoot the complete intention to one thing that’s greater than existence.”

Mack, alongside with Jackie, is successfully greater than existence in that memorial in Pasadena, which used to be dedicated in 1997. There, Jackie’s head purposefully faces east, out toward Brooklyn and the baseball world he uprooted after bidding his attach of beginning goodbye for honest.

But Mack’s face points toward City Corridor — the civic center of the town the attach he took the now not easy classes of the injustices he had continued in a existence within the shadows and nobly tried to complete some honest.

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