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North Stamford Congregational Church Remembers Jackie Robinson

The North Stamford Congregational Church follows Jackie Robinson's tradition of fostering diversity.

Rev. Cheryl D. Miller of the , the former worship home of baseball great Jackie Robinson, feels that the church's long history of diversity was what attracted him to the church in the first place.

"He was welcomed here," NSCC pastor Cheryl D. Miller said. Jackie Robinson, who'd retired from baseball on January 5, 1957, was 38 years old when he moved to Stamford and bought a home on Cascade Road, not far from the NSCC chapel, and joined the NSCC congregation. 

Before surprising the world in 1947 as the first black baseball player to join the Brooklyn Dodgers and the segregated MLB itself, Robinson had been a shortstop for the Negro American League's Kansas City Monarchs for a single season.  Robinson encountered a great deal of persecution in his first few years in the major leagues, which he expected and resisted, though never physically.

White players, such as Harold "Pee Wee" Reese and Dodgers owner Branch Rickey stood up for him. After Robinson, more black players would be invited to play in the major leagues, including Negro Leagues legend Satchel Paige.

Robinson would go on to become an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, join the NAACP, and be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1962.

An ailing Robinson's move to the Stamford community in 1957, was not welcome by all, according to Marion Jewell, a member of NSCC's congregation for 58 years.

"Jackie Robinson bought a piece of property, down the street at Cascade Road, and built a house. The man who sold the property was ostracized somewhat for having sold it to a black person. Jackie would come here, and his wife. She was a nurse, and they had three children," Jewell said. "I remember them being in church."

According to Jewell, the Robinson family would have picnics and other social events at their home and invite their North Stamford neighbors to attend.

"They were trend-setters. We need to be, too," Miller said. Miller, a Black-Phillipino woman who jokingly identifies herself as "Blasian," has been senior pastor over the modest chapel for a little less than a year, but sees her church and congregation as being unique among North Stamford churches because of their racially-mixed congregation and approaches to achieving diversity. 

"This congregation has a unique voice. Stamford is far more diverse than ever," Miller said. "Where the church is going, it's expanded in reach and scope past the African-American community."

Robinson left NSCC in 1969, according to church records, and died of a heart attack in his Cascade Rd. home on Oct. 24, 1972. Robinson has left a rich legacy in Stamford since that time, having been was honored with a statue in the Jackie Robinson Park of Fame on Stamford's West Side in 1999.  Miller believes that if Robinson were alive today, he'd want NSCC to reach "all nations of the community."

"We're making new history," Miller said.

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