R. J. “Jack” ROBINSON
April 26, 1927-
For entertainment during World War II, a young Jack Robinson snuck into the old gym on the TCU campus, dreaming that he would play basketball on a larger stage in front of a huge crowd. Bringing their own ball, he and friends turned on one light and played, despite the “Keep Out” sign posted on the door. The determination to perfect his sport became Robinson’s trademark.
Although he played youth football, in 1942 he led McLean to the city Junior High basketball championship, making the All-City team. During three years playing basketball at Paschal High School, the quick six-footer set city records for scoring in a single game and in a season. Paschal also won the 1945 state championship, and Robinson made the All-State team. Since Robinson’s father had ran track and played basketball at Baylor, it was no surprise that with his decision to join the ministry, Jack chose Baylor too.
Robinson started for the Baylor Bears as a freshman, leading them to the 1946 Conference championship. He made the All-Conference team and received mention as an All-American. Captain of the Baylor team during his sophomore season, Robinson received the Jack Dempsey Award as the outstanding American athlete.
During Robinson’s junior season, the 1948 Baylor Bears reached the NCAA finals, losing to a talented Kentucky team 58-42 at Madison Square Garden. Robinson’s performance earned for him All-American recognition from the Helms Foundation and from Look Magazine. While Baylor was invited to participate in the 1948 Olympic trials, Robinson gained a spot on the U.S. squad that competed in London.
The U.S. team that competed in London had one close game, a 58-56 victory against Argentina. During the victory Robinson hit a clutch shot late in the game and his teammates gave him the signed basketball from that semi-final game. Otherwise, the American team blew out every other opponent by at least twenty-five points, including a gold-medal victory against France 65-21.
Robinson returned with a gold medal to Baylor for his senior year. Yet he had suffered a knee injury during Baylor’s 1948 NCAA quarterfinal victory over Kansas State. The calcium growth on his right knee became progressively worse, so much so that by the fall of 1948 he could not play. Still determined, he tried to no avail. Jack Robinson’s basketball career had effectively ended but his determination had not.