COURT MARTIAL of JACKIE ROBINSON (Illustration) Sports American History African American History Censorship Civil Rights Famous Historical Events Famous People Social Studies Trials

From the U.S. Army Legal Services, this document notes the charges against 2nd Lt. Jack L. Robinson.  His court-martial resulted in a "Not Guilty" verdict, following a trial on August 2, 1944.  Online, courtesy U.S. National Archives. Click on the image for a readable view.


Jackie Robinson was not tried for refusing to move to the back of the bus.  He was tried for disrespecting the investigating officers who outranked him:

CHARGE I:  Violation of the 63rd Article of War.

Specification:  In that Second Lieutenant Jack R. Robinson...did, at Camp Hood, Texas, on or about 6 July 1944, behave himself with disrespect toward Captain Gerald M. Bear, Corps Military Police...his superior officer, by contemptuously bowing to him and giving him several sloppy salutes, repeating several times "OK Sir", "OK Sir" or words to that effect, and by acting in an insolent, impertinent and rude manner toward the said Captain Gerald M. Bear.

CHARGE II:  Violation of the 64th Article of War.

Specification:  In that Second Lieutenant Jack R. Robinson...having received a lawful command from Captain Gerald M. Bear...his superior officer to remain in a receiving room and be seated on a chair on the far side of the receiving room, did, at Camp Hood, Texas, on or about 6 July 1944, wilfully disobey the same.

Jackie's lawyer, whom the Army assigned to defend him, was from the South.  He wasn't sure he could adequately do his job:

My first break was that the legal officer assigned to defend me was a Southerner who had the decency to admit to me that he didn't think he could be objective.  He recommended a young Michigan officer who did a great job on my behalf.  He had a way of rephrasing the same question in so many clever ways that anyone who was lying would have a hard time not betraying himself.  (I Never Had It Made:  An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson, page 22.)

Jackie Robinson was acquitted of all charges against him, following a trial at Camp Hood, but the court-martial changed his mind about a future in the Army.  Instead of having a military career, Robinson asked to be relieved of active-duty responsibilities:

I appeared before the board 21 July 1944 and was recommended for permanent limited duty and am now with the 659th Tank Destroyer Battalion, North Camp Hood, Texas pending orders from your office [the Adjutant General, in Washington, D.C.]

In checking with the Special Service Branch I was told there were no openings for Colored Officers in that field.  I request to be retired from the services and be placed on reserve as I feel I can be of more service to the government doing defense work rather then being on limited duty with an outfit that is already better than 100% over strength in officers.  (Jack R. Robinson Letter to Adjutant General, 25 August 1944.)

After the war was over, and Robinson left the Army, he wanted to play baseball.  There was a "color line," however, which prevented him from being a Major League player. 

No matter how good they were, African-Americans who wanted to "play ball" - during the Jim-Crow era - had to "play ball" in the "Negro League."

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Apr 16, 2015

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