Pasadena is moving forward with its plan to honor native sons Jackie Robinson and his brother, Mack Robinson, with an art memorial in the Civic Center, a move that black leaders say is long overdue.
The city has budgeted at least $100,000 for the project, which will grace the grounds of a new Department of Water and Power building to be built in the Civic Center and opened in 1997.
The city’s Arts Division and Pasadena Robinson Memorial Inc., a group that has pressed for the memorial, will begin accepting proposals for the project in October.
The project, a sculpture or some other form of art, is intended to address the theme of Jackie Robinson’s key accomplishment: breaking major league baseball’s color barrier in 1947 when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Mack Robinson, who is 80 and still lives in Pasadena, was a world-class sprinter. He won a silver medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the 200-meter run, finishing behind the late Jesse Owens.
Several public facilities in Northwest Pasadena, the predominantly black and Latino area where the Robinsons grew up, have been named after the athletes. But the memorial will be what many see as the first citywide tribute.
“Pasadena as a city has not done enough to acknowledge their contributions,” said Councilman Chris Holden. “It’s very appropriate to have that kind of monument in a prominent place for everyone to see.”
Jackie Robinson, who died in 1972, might not have attended the dedication had it been held in his lifetime. He bristled at the prejudicial environment he experienced in Pasadena as a child and an adult, a time when blacks couldn’t buy homes in some neighborhoods and were barred from many restaurants.
Lawyer Charles Johnson, who served as president of the local chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People in the 1960s, said Jackie Robinson once turned down his request to make an appearance in the city.
“He said he’s ‘never coming back to that racist community,’ ” Johnson recalled.
Mack Robinson is disabled and unable to comment. But his wife, Delano Robinson, said, “I’m delighted that the brothers are going to be honored.”