Pioneering journalist Louie Robinson has died.
He was 88.
Robinson defied the odds during a time when America denied the existence of Black excellence. Through his work, the journalist showcased some of the nation’s most famous symbols of Black achievement. Sidney Poitier was first interviewed by Robinson in 1955, before he became well-known.
Poitier describes Robinson’s passing as a major loss.
“Never in my life have I known a better man,” said Poitier. “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.”
When Robinson joined Johnson Publishing 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, on screen, in sports, politics and in business. They were demanding equal access and attention, and Robinson’s stories graced the Ebony Magazine covers for the next 30 years.
Known for his engaging writing style, integrity and passion for facts instead of gossip, Robinson won the respect of those he covered. His articles highlighted the struggles and triumphs related to “making it big” in a system set on keeping Black people small.
Robinson’s typing skills set him apart when the U.S. Army interrupted his education at Lincoln University in Missouri, the only Black college in the country with a school of journalism. He was drafted into the Army in 1945 and during basic training, was assigned to a combat engineers outfit until being asked if he could type one morning.
Robinson spoke up, and remained in administrative posts for the duration of his tenure in the armed forces.
With a career spanning more than half of a century in Black press, Robinson was instrumental in the start up of a weekly paper called the Tyler Tribune in Tyler, Texas. It was so successful that after 2 years, it was purchased by a group of Black businessmen who relocated the paper to Dallas, and renamed it The Dallas Morning Star.
Robinson eventually relocated to Baltimore to work for many African American newspapers before landing a gig at Johnson Publishing Company. He would later receive an honorary degree from his alma mater, Lincoln University.
Louie Robinson died of heart failure on Oct. 2, just two days before his 89th birthday. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Mati Delores, and four of their six children: Toni Frazer, Michael Robinson, Robin Robinson and Stacy Robinson-Hinkhouse.
A private memorial service is planned.
Notes of condolence can be sent to [email protected].