His Legacy lives forever: Jackie Robinson’s Grady County relatives share their memories of the icon 75 years after his historic MLB debut

Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 11:20 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - During a raucous celebration at the Jackie Robinson Boys and Girls Club in Cairo, Trudy Dickens and Doris Hancock stepped into a side room and opened their manila folders.

The two sisters are both cousins of Jackie Robinson. They sat down to do something they’d never done before- share their memories of their beloved family member with the world.

“I myself still live on the homestead of Jackie’s great grandfather, which is my great, great, great grandfather’s,” Hancock said.

Hancock’s mother was born in 1919, the same year Mallie Robinson had a son, Jackie. The Robinsons were tenant farmers, tied to the land and making just a few dollars a week.

The sisters say the most important thing to remember about Jackie Robinson’s time in Georgia is how short it was. His family uprooted to California when the future star was just a year old.

“He would not have had the opportunity to explore and become the baseball player that he was,” Dickens said, believing a stay in Georgia would have kept him from becoming a pioneer.

Hancock started to share some of the family photos she brought along. In one picture believed to be taken around the time Robinson made his MLB debut in the 1940s, the sister’s aunt poses next to Jackie and Mallie.

Dickens then opened up an old high school yearbook. Inside, a hand-written note from Jackie, written in 1963 while Dickens visited Robinson during a hospital stay in New York.

“You would not think he had the notoriety that he did because he was soft spoken,” Dickens said.

In 2015, Dickens became the pastor at Rocky Hill Community Church off Meridian Road in rural Grady County, a short drive from Robinson’s birthplace.

Dickens said the church plays an important role to fully understanding Robinson’s Georgia roots. Founded in 1869, the church was filled with generations of his ancestors, who prayed and went to school on that site for decades.

“My mother used to tell us stories about them growing up, and how far they walked and how barren the land was in comparison to now,” Hancock said.

Both sisters lived many years away from Grady County, only to return home later in life. They said they have a great appreciation for their family’s importance in the history of the U.S.

And they said they hope kids, like the ones who gathered for that jovial celebration Friday, will follow in the footsteps of their cousin.

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