Bill Robinson was a wonderful storyteller.
The former Marietta Times sports editor/writer, who passed away Friday, was a native of Tennessee, and apparently back in the early 1950s during his college days, he attended a party where a young man by the name of Elvis was present.
Elvis, like in...yes, the one and only.
RON JOHNSTON The Marietta Times
Bill Robinson (right), doing what he always did best, interviews Marietta College men’s basketball coach Jon VanderWal at Ban Johnson Arena during the Pioneers’ magical playoff run a couple of years ago. Robinson, a longtime Marietta Times sports editor and writer, died this past Friday.
Photos courtesy of Larry Kave
Former Times sports editor Bill Robinson watches his beloved Marietta College Pioneers play in a men’s basketball game.
This was a couple of years before Elvis burst upon the music scene and became a rock 'n' roll household name not just in America but all over the world - and no, according to Robinson, the future "King" didn't perform that evening.
In fact, Robinson and Elvis didn't even engage in a conversation. But again, they were just two guys at a party with a lot of other people around.
If Robinson had known then what Elvis would later become, there's no question he probably would have introduced himself to him.
Thoughts on Robby
"Bill Robinson was a Marietta icon. I wish those who didn't get to know him well could have spent as much time with him as his colleagues, who found him to be a dedicated and talented journalist and one of the most kind and gentle men you ever would encounter. Robby was never more at home than when he was covering a baseball game at Pioneer Park. He loved Marietta College in general and Pioneer baseball in particular. He was a great friend and an unforgettable character. The Mid-Ohio Valley sports community has lost one of its legends."
Parkersburg News & Sentinel Sports Editor
"Any discussion of sports icons in Washington County must include Bill Robinson. He never played a down or took an at bat, but he was as much a part of sports in southeastern Ohio the past 50-plus years as any other individual. Bill covered everyone from youth leaguers to big leaguers with the same positive approach. He never looked to embarrass anyone for a mistake made on the field of play. Bill was a great sports writer, but an even better friend and human being. I will miss his gregarious laughter and endless stories."
Marietta College Assistant
"We've lost a true friend with the passing of Bill Robinson. He was one of our most avid supporters over the years. I first met Bill when he was the Sports Editor for the Marietta Times back in the 80's. Bill was one of a kind. He was ahead of his time in terms of promoting girls' and women's sports through regular coverage of local high school and college events. Bill was passionate about sports. He loved the Marietta College Pioneers and we loved him."
head softball coach
"Marietta Men's Basketball is extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Robinson. Bill truly loved Marietta College Sports and we have a great appreciation for all that he's done for our college. He was always a pleasure to work with."
men's basketball coach
"Bill loved athletics, but it was football and football players that captured his attention. He clearly understood the agony and the joy of the sport. For this reason he was tremendously loyal to those involved with football."
former Marietta High
head football coach
"He always had a way of putting a positive spin on anything.
former Tiger and Pioneer
Robinson, or "Robbie" as he was often affectionately called by many, was a people's person. He liked people, and he liked to talk about anything, especially sports.
Born in Milan, Tn., during the early years of the Great Depression, he attended Milan High, where he played both baseball and football. By his own account, he wasn't much of an athlete, but he had a talent for writing.
When he was a 16-year-old junior, he began his sports writing career for the weekly Milan Exchange. As a scribe, in his senior year, he earned the U.S. Rubber Company award.
After prep graduation, Robinson attended the University of Memphis, where he was the sports editor of the student newspaper, worked for The Daily Memphis Commercial Appeal, and was employed as a correspondent for The Nashville Banner.
In 1955, he got his B.S. degree, and two years later, he obtained his master's degree in journalism at the University of Missouri.
How Robinson ended up in Marietta doing his life's work is an interesting tale in itself.
To make a long story short, one man - William E. McKinney - made that possible.
After serving in the U.S. Army Reserves for six months, Robinson was recruited by McKinney, a former Missouri grad, and publisher, general manager and part owner of the The Marietta Times.
On a visit to Washington County, Robinson admits he had reservations initially, but after "a bowl of ice cream" with McKinney, he decided to give it a-go.
Ever since, Marietta and the community have been the beneficiary.
Robinson often said he could pen a book on all of the many sports thrills he experienced and covered in the area. The first one is always special and occurred on Nov. 7, 1958 when visiting Marietta High upset fifth-ranked and previously undefeated Newark, 14-0.
According to Robinson, when he got back to Marietta that night, he "wrote beyond sunrise."
That triumph over Newark was a part of a 16-game Tigers' winning streak that included a perfect 1959 campaign.
Memories. There's just so many of them.
Over the years, of course, Marietta College sports, especially baseball, has had a special place in Robinson's heart. A good friend of the late, legendary Don Schaly and his family, he helped in landing the first NCAA Division III World Series in Marietta.
In the springtime, Pioneer Park, or Don Schaly Stadium as it's called now, was pretty much a second home to Robinson.
In February, 1989, Robinson was honored at a Marietta College banquet when he received the M-Club's distinguished service award for "many years of outstanding services and contributions to MC Pioneer athletics."
Robinson, a former president, treaurer and secretary of the Central Ohio League Sports Writers Association, is also a member of the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) Bill Nichols Media Award, and the owner of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Southeast District Media Service Award.
At the end of concerts during Elvis' remarkable career on the stage, it was often announced that "he had left the building."
In essence, Bill Robinson has done the same.