BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - April 15, 1947 was big day for baseball, and a big day for the country. On that day, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball.
Saturday night, the Biloxi Shuckers honored Robinson and the Biloxi Dodges; a team in the old Southern Negro League in the early and late 1960s.
Inspired by the late Robinson, Johnny Thompson played twice for the Dodgers.
"I don't know if I could have went through what he went through, but he took a lot to play the game," Thompson said. "In fact, he made it easier for me and others who came along after him."
And now, Thompson can enjoy the plaudits that he didn't get then.
"I enjoy it because kids running up to you, 'Sign my baseball. Sign my program.' Sign this or sign that. Not only kids, but bunch of adults....I really enjoy that," said Thompson.
Gerald Jacobs played for the team around the same time. He was a junior in high school when he started.
"It was fantastic. As kids, we grew up playing baseball from daylight to dusk," Jacobs said. "We played it hard, played it fast, and we loved it. It was our way of entertaining ourselves and trying to give something back to the community."
Jacobs grew up loving Robinson, but worries about the lack of blacks now playing the game.
"He [did] so much for us. He gave us that opportunity. Unfortunately, we haven't taken advantage of it like we should have. There should be more there but unfortunately, it's just not," said Robinson.
The day of celebration began with a ceremony by the Biloxi NAACP honoring Robinson with both Thompson and Jacobs attending. The ceremony has been organized by Gordon Jackson for three years.
"It's still necessary to really educate our young people and to really understand the qualities," said Jackson. "The principals, the values, and the courage that it took for Jackie to do what he did and how it benefits them even to today."
Also at the NAACP ceremony, the Spirit of Jackie Robinson Awards were presented to honor community leaders who best exemplify Robinson's qualities.
Winners were East Biloxi In Motion (Allytra Perryman, Jennifer Crosslin, Elizabeth Englebretson); the Rev. Ken Maurice Davis, Tabernacle MBC; the Rev. Robert James, Stone County NAACP; and Ya-Sin Shabazz, Hijra House EBCC.