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Jackie Robinson Explains Why He Cannot Support Nixon in 1968
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This remarkable letter to an autograph collector reveals Robinson’s commitment to Civil Rights over his commitment to the Republican Party. Although he supported Richard Nixon in 1960, he refused to support Barry Goldwater in 1964. In 1968, Nixon’s pandering to South Carolina’s fiercely segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond (1902-2003) repelled Robinson. Although Robinson had supported New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller’s candidacy for the Republican nomination, Robinson declared in a television interview that the Nixon ticket was “racist in nature” and that Nixon had “prostituted himself out to the bigots in the south.” Robinson also declared that he would remain a Republican and urged African Americans to “stay in the Republican party and try to change it.”

JACKIE ROBINSON. Autograph Letter Signed, to Ken Browne, ca. September 17, 1968. On “Jackie Robinson” stationery with stamped, postmarked envelope addressed by Robinson. 2 pp., 8½ x 7¼ in.

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Complete Transcript

Dear Ken Browne-

Thanks for your letter. I appreciate your interest and sincerity.

No, Ken, I am not wrong on Nixon. I am sure if you were Black you could better understand why we feel as we do. How can you expect to support a man who appeals to to the old south and to backlash. America is already in terrible shape in terms of race relations. Nixon’s deals with Strom Thurmond points to future dangers.

I wish you had a copy of Drew Pearson’s column headlined Thurmond and the High Court. He stated Nixon and Thurmond met on June 1 at the Riviera Hotel in Atlanta, Ga. made a deal giving Thurmond <2> an agreement that if Elected he would appoint future Supreme court justices agreeable to the south. Pearson said “in effect giving Thurmond the right to pass on all court appointments just as he passed on vice presidential candidates in Miami.”

He said most surprising is the public has not yet been reminded of Thurmonds remarkable record which dates back to 1948 when he led a southern walkout after Humphrey forced adoption of a civil rights plank for the first time in history.

How can you in light of what appears to be a sincere letter believe a man so qualified would make deals with one of the countries worst people—Strom Thurmond.

Again my thanks nice to have heard from you.


                                                                        Jackie Robinson

Historical Background

After retiring from professional baseball in 1957, African American sports pioneer Jackie Robinson served as vice-president for personnel at Chock Full O’Nuts coffee from 1957 to 1964 and became involved in other business ventures.

Robinson famously endorsed Republican candidate Richard Nixon in 1960, believing Democrat John F. Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights to be “insincere.” In 1964, Robinson attended the Republican National Convention as a supporter of Nelson Rockefeller. When the Convention nominated Barry Goldwater, Robinson broke with the Republicans and voted for incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1968, he again supported Rockefeller, but the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach in early August nominated Nixon on the first ballot.

Robinson was furious because he believed that Nixon’s alliance with South Carolina segregationist Strom Thurmond would set the Civil Rights movement back for years. Robinson references an editorial by veteran columnist Drew Pearson (1897-1969), who was famous for his syndicated column, “Washington Merry-Go-Round,” which he issued with Jack Anderson. Weeks after Nixon gained the Republican nomination, Pearson and Anderson concluded that “The position which Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., the Senate’s No. 1 Dixiecrat, played in the backstage maneuvering in Miami Beach is probably the most important development so far in the election campaign.” They reviewed Thurmond’s “remarkable record” and declared him to be “the unfailing spokesman for neo-fascists in the United States.” He was very interested in the Supreme Court because, according to Pearson and Anderson, “He feels that the worst blot on American history in this century was the Supreme Court’s desegregation ruling of 1954, coupled with its other rulings – the one-man, one-vote decision for the reapportionment of state legislatures, and its ruling protecting the constitutional rights of accused criminals.”

Jackie Robinson(1919-1972) was born in Georgia and when his father left in 1920, his mother moved the family to California. In high school, Robinson played football, basketball, track, baseball, and tennis. He attended Pasadena Junior College and continued playing in several sports. After graduation in 1939, Robinson enrolled at UCLA, where he became the first black athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. He left college in 1941, just before graduating. Drafted in 1942, Robinson eventually entered officer candidate school and received a commission as a second lieutenant. Arrested for insubordination to racist officers, Robinson was acquitted in the court martial before an all-white panel of officers. After an honorable discharge in 1944, Robinson played baseball in the Negro leagues in 1945, where he drew the attention of major-league baseball. He played with the minor-league Montreal Royals in 1946, and the major-league Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson retired in 1957, and served as vice president for personnel at Chock Full O’Nuts coffee from 1957 to 1964. He later helped found a bank and a construction company. He supported the Vietnam War and one of his sons was wounded in service in 1965. Robinson broke with Republicans when they nominated Barry Goldwater for president in 1964.

Kenneth H. Browne(1923-2018) was born in Brewer, Maine, and served in the military during World War II in Italy. In Yankton, South Dakota, he met Joyce Lane (b. 1927), and they married in California in 1946. They moved to Maine, where he graduated from Husson University in Bangor in 1948. He took a job at a bank in Sioux City, Iowa, and in 1959, they moved to Mesa, Arizona, where he retired from Wells Fargo Bank in 1982. In 2000, he and his wife returned to Sioux City. He began collecting autographs in 1939, when he obtained Eleanor Roosevelt’s autograph at a hotel in Bangor. For the next sixty years, he collected autographs and autographed photographs of political, sports, and cultural celebrities, eventually accumulating approximately 10,000. Some years, he mailed as many as 1,200 letters to various celebrities, and in the peak year of 1957 received 450 autographs in return.