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. Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida is named in his honor. In 2016, Mr. Pearson was inducted in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame. In 2018, a post office in Jacksonville was renamed in honor of civil rights activist.