About Mr. Rutledge H. Pearson
Rutledge Pearson (September 9, 1929 - May 1967) was an educator, civil rights leader and human rights activist. He was also a notable baseball player in his early years. He was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd H. Pearson Sr and graduated from New Stanton High School in 1947. He attended Tillatson College in Austin, Texas on a baseball scholarship 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 Tillatson.
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 in the Major League 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. He was a very good baseball player.
He was featured on the cover of JET magazine on April 20, 1964, with the headline: "Former Baseball Star Leads Jacksonville Civil Rights Struggle." 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 is named in his honor.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2016
CONTACT: GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE
Governor Rick Scott Selects Three Inductees for Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the selection of Jesse McCrary, Jr., Earl Johnson, and Rutledge Henry Pearson to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Governor Scott chose these three from a list of 10 distinguished nominees selected by the Florida Commission on Human Relations for making significant contributions to the improvement of life for minorities and all citizens of the great State of Florida.
Jesse McCrary, Jr. (1937-2007), formerly of Miami, was the first African American to serve as Secretary of State in the Florida Cabinet since Reconstruction as well as the first African American assistant attorney general. As a student at Florida A & M University, McCrary helped organize sit-ins in Tallahassee against racial discrimination. After graduation, he served in the United States Army and received an honorable discharge as a First Lieutenant. McCrary went on to become the first African American lawyer to argue before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of a southern state. He later became the first African American in the south to be appointed to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. During his life, McCrary argued many landmark state and federal cases including Neil v. State, which prohibited the dismissal of jurors solely on the basis of race. In 2002, the Florida A & M College of Law founded the Jesse McCrary, Jr. Chapter of National Black Law Students Association and in 2013, the Little River Post Office in Miami was dedicated and renamed in recognition for his work as a civil rights pioneer.
Earl M. Johnson (1928-1988), formerly of Jacksonville, was the first African American to become a member of the Jacksonville Bar Association. Johnson also served as chair of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and was instrumental during the Consolidation of Jacksonville through his service on the Local Government Study Commission as Secretary. Johnson was committed to fighting inequality and segregation throughout his life and distinguished himself by representing many civil rights activists including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ambassador Young. His cases helped to desegregate many public places in Florida including schools, parks, water fountains, and hospitals. The Earl M. Johnson Memorial Park in Jacksonville was created and named in honor of his work for the civil rights movement.
Rutledge Henry Pearson (1929-1967), formerly of Jacksonville, was an American history teacher, civil rights leader, and human rights activist who focused on empowering his students to become involved in the civil rights movement and promote nonviolence. Pearson first became involved in the civil rights movement as a baseball player when Jacksonville park officials chose to close the park rather than allow organized baseball to become integrated. In 1961, he was elected President of the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP and later elected President of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP. Under his leadership, peaceful demonstrations against segregated hotels and restaurants were held and membership grew. Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School in Jacksonville is named in his honor.
JACKSONVILLE MAIN POST OFFICE TO BE RENAMED AFTER RUTLEDGE PEARSONJune 22, 2018Press Release
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) and the U.S. Postal Service will hold a dedication ceremony on Friday, July 20 to rename the Kings Road Post Office in honor of civil rights activist Rutledge Pearson. Rep. Lawson filed the bill to rename the post office (H.R. 3638) on August 1, 2017. The bill passed Congress earlier this year and was signed into law on March 28, 2018.
Pearson served as president of the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP, and was later elected president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP. He became a civil rights activist after he was denied the opportunity to play professional baseball for the Jacksonville Beach Seabirds because of his race. Pearson also made his mark as a notable baseball player with Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro League. He died in May 1967 at the age of 37. Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School in Jacksonville is named in his honor.
WHAT: Post Office Renamining Ceremony
WHEN: Friday, July 20, 2018 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: United States Postal Office
1100 Kings Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32203