UCLA alumnus Jackie Robinson never planned to become a living symbol of the fight against racial injustice, but his breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball — on April 15, 1947 — was not only one of the greatest acts of societal defiance in the 20th century but one of the most influential events in the fight for equal rights.

While at UCLA from 1939 to 1941, Robinson lettered in four sports — baseball, football, basketball and track. During his 10-year professional career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was named rookie of the year, was a six-time all-star and was voted the National League’s most valuable player in 1949. In 1962, he became the first Black player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

After retiring, Robinson, who died in 1972, served as a champion for civil rights and economic opportunity for African Americans by joining Martin Luther King Jr. as honorary chairmen of the Youth March for Integrated Schools in 1958; writing a syndicated newspaper column about race relations, family life and politics; and helping to found the black-owned Freedom National Bank, among other things.

Today, on the 21st Jackie Robinson Day, we honor his legacy with a look back in the Newsroom archives at the man once called “the greatest UCLA athlete of all time.”

► 42 facts about Jackie Robinson to celebrate the anniversary of his breaking the color barrier

► UCLA Magazine: Celebrating Jackie Robinson

► Video: Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 lives on at UCLA

► Video: Unveling of mural at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium

► UCLA announces Jackie Robinson Athletics and Recreation Complex

► UCLA retires Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 across all sports