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Monday, October 12, 2015

PUBLISHER'S PEACE

Pioneering Journalist Dies at 88

Guest Correspondent: Robin Robinson
"This is the first of a two-part series about an amazing man who inspired so many, but non greater than his talented and much respected daughter, who has become pioneering in her own right. You can believe that Mr. Robinson died an extremely proud father". - CDW
Louie Robinson circa 1951
The young Louie Robinson at work
Born in Dallas, Texas in 1926, LOUIE ROBINSON defied the odds of a time when America denied the existence of Black excellence, let alone the tools with which a Black writer could emerge to chronicle such things. Robinson not only showcased some of the nation’s most famous symbols of Black achievement, he exposed their humanity in such a way that readers might see themselves in the stars.
Sidney Poitier was first interviewed by Robinson in 1955 before the Bahamian born actor was well-known. But he had been cast in the film Blackboard Jungle by a major studio, which made him newsworthy to Black readers. “We were to meet at MGM and trying to figure out how we would recognize each other,” Robinson said in a recent interview, “ then it hit us: if you’re there, you are one Black man. I will be the other one. Poitier describes the passing of the writer who became a friend and collaborator as a major loss.
“Never in my life have I known a better man. His life was an experience that will leave behind memories of major importance. In his life from which many humane experiences have arisen to the benefit of so many of his fellow human beings, he has always stood strong and he has always reached out to those in need,” expressed Poitier.
When he joined Johnson Publishing Company in the late 50’s, the timing was just right for a self-taught newspaper man looking to open the world like a book. Black stars were emerging on stage and screen in sports, politics and business – and demanding equal access and attention. After Robinson was promoted to West Coast Editor of Ebony Magazine in 1960, his stories graced the covers for the next 30 years. He fulfilled a passion and worked to fill a void he first noticed as a child growing up in Mineral Wells, Texas. In his yet unpublished memoirs, Robinson writes about what was missing at the time:
louies rob
Mr. Robinson
“I listened to the radio, read newspapers, witnessed life as presented in the movies; and in time I studied American civics, not yet quite realizing that these were devoted to the White version of America,” as described by MR. ROBINSON
Known for his engaging writing style, integrity and a passion for facts instead of gossip, ROBINSON won the respect of those he covered over the years. His articles profiled the struggles and triumphs related to making it big in a system intent on keeping Black people small.
Sammy Davis Jr. was a member of the storied Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, but while he performed to packed houses at Las Vegas casinos, the entertainer’s Caucasian valet still had to place his bets for him. No Blacks were allowed at the gaming tables.
Many of the people ROBINSON wrote about became lifelong friends, including Davis, singer Nancy Wilson, tennis champion Arthur Ashe, comedians Nipsey Russell and Bill Cosby, baseball pioneer Curt Flood, and most notably, Poitier, with whom he helped organize two books nearly 30 years apart: This Life (1980), and Life Beyond Measure (2008). Robinson also wrote the first book on Ashe, Arthur Ashe: Tennis Champion (1970) and was chosen by Maria Cole to co-author her late husband’s life story in Nat King Cole, An Intimate Biography (1971).
Robinson’s talent for writing was first nurtured by an English teacher who took note of a poem he was tinkering with. Though the Black high school in segregated Mineral Wells, Texas lacked sufficient books, resources and even accreditation, he was at least able to graduate. That luxury was afforded because his grandfather, James Umphrey Wyatt, worked one of the few good jobs available to a Black man at the time – a hotel porter.
That meant his grandson did not have to quit school as soon as he was ‘big enough’ to be hired labor. Education was treasured in the Wyatt household. Robinson’s mother Bessie insisted her only child learn to type in hopes that he would land ‘inside’ work. (Continue in tomorrow's edition of TBTNews)

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