Cameron Turner: Mack Robinson — Second to None

Published : Saturday, July 12, 2014 | 6:05 PM

Mack Robinson. Photo courtesy Pasadena City College

Sometimes we have no idea that we’re in standing the presence of greatness.  As students at John Muir High School in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, we often saw the unassuming elderly gentleman on campus. He always had warm words of advice, encouragement and expectation for us kids. He’d ask students about homework, inquire about family members, warn them to stay away from drugs and insist that they go to class. But a lot of us had no idea that this man, Mr. Robinson, was a living legend.

I was amazed to learn, that Matthew “Mack” Robinson had set track and field records back in the 1930s as a student at Muir and Pasadena Junior College (PCC today). His greatest triumph came in 1936 Berlin Olympics where he won the silver medal in the 200 meters, finishing just four-tenths of a second behind the great Jesse Owens. He continued to gain sports glory at the University of Oregon. My peers and I were also impressed to learn that Mack Robinson also happened to be big brother to another famous Muir and PJC alum who made a little history of his own – the man who integrated Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson.

Mack Robinson’s heroism will be celebrated with a VIP reception at Pasadena City Colleg this Friday, July 18, the date that would have been his 100th birthday. Artifacts from Robinson’s Olympic and local sports careers will be on display and special tributes will be shared by community leaders, friends and family members including his widow, Delano Robinson. In addition to his athletic achievements, the PCC celebration will also spotlight Mr. Robinson’s lifelong efforts on behalf of local youth.

Indeed, Mack Robinson’s commitment to young people may be his greater legacy. It was certainly where he focused a lot of his attention. I remember the night in 1988 when Mack and his late brother, Jackie, were inducted into the Muir High School Alumni Hall of Fame. Mr. Robinson didn’t talk much about sports in his acceptance speech. Instead, admonished kids to make smart choices and urged adults to guide and protect young people. Look closely at the sculpted bust of Mack Robinson across the street from Pasadena City Hall and you’ll find his personal mission statement etched in bronze: “My desire was to bring about a drastic change in education and the attitudes of America’s youth.”

In pursuing that most important mission, Mack Robinson was truly a gold medalist.

For details about the Mack Robinson centennial celebration at PCC, call (626) 585-7250 or visit

Thanks for listening. I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.


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