Midtown Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hotel has announced its permanent closure after more than 96 years in operation. But as tennis legend Martina Navratilova tweeted on November 1 about a New York Sports Tours flashback, history there is not forgotten.
Among the locations where Jackie Robinson championed minority causes after he became MLB’s first black player in the 20th century, the hotel serves as the backdrop for a brief New York Sports Tours civil rights documentary that features Robinson.
During many tour stops at the hotel, guests have often been surprised to learn that over a five-year span, the former Brooklyn Dodgers star campaigned for Republican presidential candidates for president.
Robinson supported Richard Nixon in 1960, concluding that Democrat John F. Kennedy was insincere about civil rights. Four years later, Robinson left his job near the Roosevelt Hotel as vice president of personnel for coffee-store chain Chock full o’Nuts to serve as a national director for the presidential campaign of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
After the two candidates’ unsuccessful presidential runs, Robinson co-founded and served as chairman of Manhattan-based Freedom National Bank, then as Governor Rockefeller’s special assistant for community affairs.
This story was published in a special Election Day issue of New York Sports Tours’ newsletter. For more original stories, sign up for the complimentary newsletter here.