In 1995, Dr. Linda Walden returned to her family roots in Grady County. She has brought the remembrance of Jackie Robinson to the forefront.
Linda says, “Well, initially there was very little response, as far as the board members were very excited, but the community at large was not very receptive."
Progress has been made in memorializing the Cairo native. On March 10, 1996, as Cairo high school baseball player Willie Harris watched from the dugout, his school’s baseball field was named after Jackie Robinson.
Willie Harris, a Major League Baseball player, says, “Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, all those great players, but neither one of those guys can say that they’re from where Jackie is from.”
During the 50th anniversary of Jackie’s feat, Major League Baseball retired Jackie’s #42 throughout the major leagues.
Dr. Walden ignited a ceremony of her own.
“Georgia Highway 93, which is the highway right behind me, was renamed the Jackie Memorial Parkway.
Controversy persists. On June 17, 1997, a statue is proposed of Jackie Robinson at the Grady County Courthouse. Dr. Linda Walden’s request was never realized. Four years later, a monument was erected in remembrance of the confederate soldier.
Richard Vanlandingham, Cairo Mayor, says, “I think you just have to be careful, when you start giving out awards like that, that you gotta include everybody if you’re going to do it, otherwise you’re going to create more harm than you do good.”
Alan Kaye, Roddenbury Library Director, adds, "Everything that Jackie Robinson did, all the influence that he had throughout the country could be a good thing for Cairo in the long run, and we can lift ourselves up by lifting him up.”
Al McCoy, a negro league player, says, “It’s a shame to say it, and I feel terrible saying it, but these people have no idea how important Jackie Robinson was. For some odd reason, we just don’t take advantage of the people who were born next to us, and not recognize them as people who have great respect all over the world except here.”
April 15 will mark the 59th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's first major league game.