Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation, Inc. JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA

January 20, 2016 in Featured, Hot Business Tips, In the news, Uncategorized by admin


(September 9, 1929 – May 1967)

bfeab022a18e768930cd8a7237837487A Jacksonville native and local teacher, Rutledge H. Pearson played a major role in the advancement of civil rights in Jacksonville and Florida. As advisor to the Youth Council of the Jacksonville Chapter of the NAACP, Rutledge Pearson organized and directed the first sit-in movement in the city to end racial segregation of local restaurants and lunch counters.
On August 27, 1960, these young demonstrators were attacked in Hemming Park by a white mob carrying axe handles and bats. The violence of “Axe Handle Saturday” was instrumental in creating community support for improving race relations. After serving as president of the both the local and state chapters of the NAACP, Rutledge Pearson became an agent for the Laundry, Dry Cleaning, and Dye House Worker’s Union in 1966. Mr. Pearson was an educator, civil rights leader and human rights activist. He was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd H. Pearson Sr and graduated from New Stanton High School in 1947. He attended Tillotson College in Austin, Texas on a baseball scholarship (He was also a notable baseball player in his early years) and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 1951. (He and his future wife, Mary Ann Johnson, were classmates with Medgar Evers at Tillotson.)


The Reading Eagle newspaper reports on the 27th July 1952 that Pearson played for the 1952 New York Black Yankees of the Negro League. He was 6’3 and played first base. He played professional baseball for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro League, and would have played professional baseball with the Jacksonville Beach Seabirds but park officials decided they’d rather close the park than allow him to play.

This event changed his life and from then on he dedicated his life to the struggle for human dignity and respect. He taught history at Isaiah Blocker Junior High School and coached baseball at New Stanton High School as well. He served as local and state president of the NAACP, recruiting members and persuading both black and white members of the Jacksonville community to support the organization. The article states that he was very influential in recruiting members of the NAACP citing that in just two years he was able to drive membership from a few hundred to over 2,000. He was also noted for his ability to influence the youth of Jacksonville enough to calm some of the violence surrounding the civil rights clashes that took place in the city in the 1960s. Pearson served as president of the both the local and state branches of the NAACP during the 1960s. As such, he supported the civil rights efforts in nearby St. Augustine that led to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In May 1967, he was mysteriously killed in a car accident on the way to organize Laundry workers in Memphis, Tennessee. A school in Jacksonville, Florida (Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School) is named in his honor.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Foundation and the City of Jacksonville take great pride in honoring this Civil Rights icon with an honor that is dwarfed, by comparison, to the contributions he made to the citizens of Jacksonville, to Florida, and yes, to the United States of America.

Even today, nearly 49 years after the untimely demise of Mr. Pearson, we suffer from not having a vocabulary expansive enough to give just due to this man…..an educator, a civil rights leader, a human rights activist, but most of all…..a man whose departure left a crater of a void that has yet to be be filled.

We, as a community, are deeply indebted to the Pearson family for consenting to accept the MLK Grand Marshal Award on behalf of Mr. Pearson.

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