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Jackie Robinson Jr. Tragically Died 16 Months Before His Famous Father

Samantha Franco
(Photo Credit: Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

By the time Jackie Robinson Jr. was five months old, his father, Baseball Hall of Fame player Jackie Robinson Sr., was already making history, breaking records and catching the attention of the big leagues. But Jackie Robinson Jr. was living an existence completely different from his father’s. His own life was filled with ups and downs, and it would come to an end in a tragic accident just 16 months before his father’s death.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Jackie Robinson Jr. shows his famous dad, Jackie Robinson Sr., how to slice at the ball. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Two-and-a-half-year-old Jackie Robinson Jr. shows his famous dad, Jackie Robinson Sr., how to slice at the ball. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Military structure

During his childhood, Jackie Robinson Jr. had a lot of emotional challenges when it came to school, and early on he was put into a special education program to help give him the best possible education. He began to succeed academically during high school, but found that he needed more structure in his life – something school wasn’t providing for him.

Jackie Robinson and his son pose for photo in trophy room

Jackie Robinson and 10-year-old, Jackie Jr. pose in Robby’s trophy room in Stamford, Connecticut, home. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Eventually, Robinson Jr. dropped out of high school and enlisted in the military. He spent three years in the military and spent a good portion of his time in Vietnam.

Vietnam

While in Vietnam, Jackie Robinson Jr. was exposed to the horrors of war. He was wounded in action while attempting to rescue a fellow soldier who was under heavy fire near him. He was able to pull his comrade away and into safety but was hit by shrapnel and badly hurt. Unfortunately, the other soldier did not survive. After months of healing, Robinson Jr. was discharged and traveled back to the United States with his family.

Photo of Jackie Robinson and his son holding baseball bats

Jackie Robinson is shown here teaching his son Jackie Jr. how to bat, circa 1951. (Photo Credit: Bettman / Getty Images)

Drug addiction

Upon his return, Jackie Robinson Jr. went through what many other soldiers were experiencing at the time. Many of them had turned to drugs to help them cope with the horrors of war and had established a dependency on them. Now home, Robinson Jr. was struggling with sobriety. In 1965, he checked himself into the Daytop Village treatment facility in Seymour, Connecticut. He spent two years there and completed his treatment at the age of 20.

Jackie Robinson Sr. follows son out of courtroom entryway

Jackie Robinson follows his son, Jackie Robinson Jr., out of Stamford circuit court following his son’s arrest for possession of a firearm and drugs. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Regional Director

Jackie Robinson Jr.’s time at the rehab facility had a major impact on him, and he wanted to continue to help those struggling with addiction. He began to work at the treatment center and before long, he was appointed as Regional Director of Daytop Village. In support of his son and his efforts to help others, Jackie Robinson Sr. used his fame to push anti-drug education and awareness.

The crash

On June 17, 1971, Jackie Robinson Jr. was heading toward his parents’ home in Stamford. He was driving at a very high speed and lost control of his car. He proceeded to smash through a fence and crash into a bridge. He was pronounced dead at the scene. After the accident, his body was taken to the nearby Norwalk Hospital where his younger brother, David, identified him. Jackie Robinson Jr. was only 24 years old.

Jackie Robinson leaves the funeral of his son

Former baseball great Jackie Robinson (center) comforts his wife after the funeral for his son. His son died in an automobile crash. At bottom right, Robinson’s daughter leans against her brother. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Contributor)

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Jackie Robinson Sr. did not live for much longer. The elder Robinson died of a heart attack at his home on October 24, 1972. He was 53 years old.