Lawson Paul Robinson

June 12, 2009 was a wonderful day in the life of our family.  Our first great-grandson was born.  Paul was been moved to tears when he was told that this new baby would have his name.  Lawson is the middle name of Garold Brooks, the other great-grandfather He is the first cousin to Reilly Morgan Aguilar, our first great-granddaughter.  What a terrific world we live in, where families get to know each other from the early beginnings.  Reilly has been a source of great joy and comfort, especially watching her Mother Melissa as she patiently guides and teaches her.  Ricky seems to be always cheerful and happy as her father.  He, too, is very loving and wonderfully encouraging.   Grandmother Janice is the pivot around which it all turns.  She is a magnificent Mother and Grandmother to these young ones.  And, the granddad, Mike, is an anchor for the whole family.  He has been that for most of his life.   I wish he could know how much he is loved and treasured.

This writing is to record the message asked for by Lee Michael Robinson, who is father to Lawson Paul Robinson.  Eran is the incredible Mother with maturity and wisdom as only a person of her family and profession can be  So this little boy arrives to the golden life and world of Eran and Lee Robinson’s home.

His first Great-grandfather might have wanted him to hear the message in these words.  They have been written by me as I imagine he would want Lawson to hear them.  Maybe, the words will mean more when Lawson is Lee’s age.  For now, here they are for our family to read:

“I am the voice of James Monroe Robinson, Jr.

To Lawson Paul Robinson,

This is one of your great grandfathers.  I came to Earth September 7, 1922 in Kingsville, TX and I left on July 15, 1962 in Corpus Christi, TX.  I had a stroke (aneurism in my brain) and never recovered, so that means that I never met you, Lawson.  I wish I could have lived until you were born and since I did not, I want you to know about my life, so that you will know some of your history from the Robinson side of the family.

My childhood was spent in Kingsville, Texas.  I was born on a farm in a home-birth, the third of three children.  My father was James Monroe Robinson (born in 1889) and they called him Monroe.   My mother was Annie Lou Cox (born in 1887).  She was born to George Cox, a Primitive Baptist preacher.  The Primitive Baptists were also referred to as Hardshell Baptists.  They were known for their practice of “footwashing”.

Annie Lou was one of six or more children in George Cox’ first family.  Their mother died and he re-married the local school- teacher, Miss Annie, and she bore him six more children so it was a very large family.   You can see that my Mother, Annie Lou Cox had a step-mother named Annie.  The first six children didn’t think fondly of Miss Annie.  They would try to please her, like scrubbing the kitchen floor and Miss Annie would say, “It’s no more than you should do.”  The children of the first family bonded together.  They loved and visited all their half brothers and sisters but there was something special in the way the first children banded together emotionally.

Annie was very fond of her 3 sisters.  They were Sally (Meers); Emma (Harris); and Mary (Robinson).  Mary married my father’s brother, Dan.  Their three daughters, Daphna (married Jesse Gunn); Nellie; and Verna Joyce (married Edgar Glasscock).  There is a Glasscock drive in Georgetown, named for Edgar.

So, Annie and Monroe, my parents, first had Helen (m. Joe Jiral), then Ruby Nell (m.  Joe Boring), and last was me, James.  Mother called me “Jamebosie”.   I was the baby and loved very much.  We were typical kids and I fought with my sisters, especially Helen.  I loved to tell the story of how she threw an ice pick at me one time when she lost her temper.  She missed and the ice pick stuck in the door.

My mother, Annie, made sugar cookies during the Great Depression.  She sold them for 1 penny apiece to the women of Kingsville for their parties—teas, bridge clubs, and special celebrations.  She was very clever and could fashion a cookie cutter out of the metal strip that came from around a coffee can.  She could make any shape, diamonds, clubs, or animals and Christmas trees.  She used the money from her cookie income to give us music lessons.  Helen took violin, Ruby Nell took piano, and I took clarinet lessons.  I was in the band and I also played football all the way through high school and college.  I was a good tennis player and a pretty good athlete.  I sang in the church choir.  By the way, your Grandfather Michael can make those sugar cookies.  They are very difficult to make.

Our family didn’t have much money and times were hard.  When my parents, Monroe and Annie, first married they got jobs at the state asylum for insane people in Austin.  Then Uncle Allie Robinson and his wife Rudy moved to Kingsville.  Monroe and Annie moved down there, too.  The whole family farmed for a long time.  The man who owned the farm we rented wanted us to buy it, but my Daddy was afraid to go into debt.  He was a man of his word and feared being unable to make his payments, so we left the farm and lived in a house at 311 E. Fordyce St., in Kingsville and my Daddy went to work in the shop at the Missouri Pacific Railroad.  That was good, because my Mother was “melancholic” in my early childhood.  She was depressed and old Dr. Jones would tell my Daddy to take her back to Austin to see her family.  It was really nice for her to have a Railroad pass and ride free to visit Mary and Emma and Sally (Sally lived in Brady but her daughter would bring her to Austin whenever Annie came).

One thing I did to earn money was to run a paper route.  I kept that job all through high school and college.  I rode my bicycle at 4 a.m. every day, delivering the Corpus Christi Caller Times.

I loved math and science, so I majored in Chemical Engineering at Texas College of Arts and Industries in Kingsville.  Graduated in May of 1941 and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7 that year, so I joined the U.S. Army Air Corps.  Since I had a degree, I went in as a second Lieutenant.  Came out a second Lieutenant four years later when the war was over.  I learned to be a Navigator on the large bombers (B-25s) and spent the war years teaching Air Force Navigators.  I was stationed at San Marcos, TX.  So I didn’t go overseas and never saw combat.

When I returned home to Kingsville from World War II. I was very trim and people said that I looked very good. I had lost a lot of weight, and was in great physical condition.  I had an optimistic feeling about all that was ahead.  Chemistry was the new frontier and everybody was talking about plastics.  That was what I knew and could see myself succeeding in that field.

I went to the First Baptist Church, which is where my family all went to church, and Sunday night during the summer of 1945, I was at “Fellowship” in the church basement.  All the young people met there after church.   There was a girl playing the piano. Her name was Margie McNeely. I watched her play, and I sang, kind of hanging onto the piano with my good friend, Clyde Joiner, and I said to Clyde later, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.”   The church ladies gossiped about it because Margie was just 16 years old (even though she was a junior in college).  They talked about me “robbing the cradle.”   They said it would never last—that we didn’t know what we were doing.

Now I had told my family I would never, ever marry, that I hated women, and I wanted no part of marriage, and was going to be a bachelor the rest of my life. So when I took Margie in about a year later, with a ring on her finger, and she showed it to my Daddy, he laughed and thought it was really funny. This was Margie’s introduction to the family. She went into the kitchen to show the ring to my mother, Annie, and Annie said, “Well, I’m going to have to talk to James about this.” That sort of set the tone for how Margie went into the family.

At that time, Ruby Nell was married to Joe Boring, and they had 2 children, Johnny was 2 1/2 or 3, and the little girl was Sharon Anne, and they lived with the Robinsons. So, Granny and Joe weren’t getting along real well most of the time. We called my mother Granny.  She usually had critical things to say and that was kind of the situation.   Monroe, my father, died that year.  He had a heart attack.  They had bought a house in Austin and he was retiring from the Railroad, planning to start a new life.  It was a huge turning point for Annie became very dependent on all of us.  Losing my Daddy at such a young age (56) was really hard for all of us.  My Mother relied on me to help her.  She moved in with Margie and me right after we got married.

Well, Margie and I married the week after she got her degree in Business.  The date was May 25, 1947.  She got a Bachelor’s of Business Degree when she was 18, and we got married the next Sunday in the First Baptist Church of Weslaco, TX, where her parents lived.  We were very happy, full of hope and high expectations.   Our marriage was 15-years long. During that time, we had 4 children—5 if you count the premature baby that died.

The first one was Anna…Anna Kathleen. She was born on Granny Robinson’s birthday—August 4 (1950). Anna went on to marry Jay Brown, and then they divorced. They have a son named John Newton Brown IV.

Then there was your grandfather, James Michael Robinson, born on September 20, 1953.   He was the sweetest little boy when he was born, a lot like you.  I remember how happy we were that he slept through the night the very first month.  He was a smiling, cheerful baby with a deep belly laugh.  I was so proud of him and loved to play catch with him when he got old enough.  He followed me around when we were building all those houses, helping me with errands.

Three years after Mike was born, Victoria Kaye was born August 30, 1956, in Austin.  Then came Edward McNeely Robinson born May 19, 1959 in Kingsville.

I told you there was another baby that was born right after Anna Kathleen, on December 26, 1951, and that baby lived only 3 days.

We named her Margie Lee.  We had no money, so I took her little body and placed it tenderly in a shoe box, took it to the Chamberlain cemetery in Kingsville, dug a little grave at the foot of my father’s plot, and I buried her.  Margie and I cried a lot over that.

Monroe, my father, died in 1945.  He was just 56 years old.  His sister, Lillie Robinson had married Napoleon Bonaparte Tanner and they moved to Kingsville.  They had 4 children, N.B. Tanner, Lillian (Garrett), Naomi (married Walter Wesley, and Laverne (married Harold Wesson).  I tell you this because Aunt Lily also died when she was 56.  We seemed to have cardio-vascular problems, but we didn’t really know that at the time.

Margie and I built a lot of houses.  I read Theo Audel’s books on carpentry, plumbing, and wiring, and Margie drew the floor plans.  We built one before we married—built it for Annie my Mother, but she ran out of money and we bought it from her.  Then we built her a little one-bedroom house behind the 3 BR one at 310 W. Yoakum in Kingsville.   We also built a garage apartment on that same lot just before your grandfather Michael was born.  Moved Granny’s little house off in 1959, expanded it to a duplex and Margie sold it after I died.

We took jobs at Celanese in 1947.  I was working as a Chemical Engineer and Margie was in Accounts Payable.  Then I decided I wanted to return to teaching school.  I had taught after the war at Texas A&I.  They had a lot of veterans coming back to school and there were not enough teachers, so Dr. Neirman hired me as a lab Instructor.  He was a large, shuffling man that had the nickname, “Bear Tracks”.  I was large and shuffled, too.  So they called me Cub-Tracks.  Anyway, I liked teaching.  I had the reputation of being able to teach Math and Physics in such a way that people could understand them.  I loved teaching and coaching and my students often came to our house to eat or just talk.

We left Kingsville to go to Mercedes and teach school in 1948.  Both of us resigned our jobs at Celanese.  I was tennis coach, asst. football coach, math, physics, and chemistry teacher in Mercedes High School.  Margie taught 4th grade.  We set about to build us another house.  Bought a half acre of land on Baseline Road and built a little one bedroom house out of pumite blocks.  That is where we took our first baby, Anna Kathleen after one night for her birth in the Mercedes hospital.  I led the singing at the First Baptist Church and Margie was sometimes the pianist.  We were very busy with the house, the church, the school, and the community.  When Kathy came, we got a lot of help from Odie and Victoria McNeely, her grandparents.  They lived 3 miles away in Weslaco.  Odie really loved me and looked to me as a friend.  He and I built houses together.  He worked at the Pike Lumber Company and Victoria taught school at South Palm Gardens and later in Progresso.  She was always the organist at the Baptist church.  She played for churches from the time she was a twelve-year-old girl until she died at age 98.  She was still playing the piano for sing-alongs at the home.  They really grieved and missed me after I died.  My death was seen as a great tragedy by the family, as well as the community.  They said I died in the prime of my life.  They also spoke of the loss of a father to four little children.  They compared Margie to Jacqueline Kennedy after her husband was assassinated.

But, back to my story:
Kathy was just 2 years old when I decided I wanted to get a Master’s degree, so we returned to Kingsville and I taught at the High School while earning a Masters in Physics.  Then I thought I would go on to the Ph.D., so I got into the University of Texas and went summers until I could get a Teaching Assistantship and start the Ph.D. for real.  We moved into student housing in 1954.  At that time, our little family consisted of your grandfather Mike (one year old), Anna Kathleen (she was 4) and Margie and me.  Granny Robinson was around a lot as she had little money and needed a place to live.  Helen was divorced from her husband she married overseas during the war, so she and Annie teamed up to get Helen a business course in Austin.  Then Helen went back to Kingsville and Annie went with her.

I got the Ph.D. in Quantum Mechanics in 1957, the year after Kaye was born.  She was our little funny girl who liked to laugh and be very, very busy.  Kathy had started school in Austin.  We bought the house on Linda Lane and all was well.  I taught a year at UT after being appointed as an Assistant Professor, working for Dr. Matson.  Those were the days of Sputnik and the National Science Foundation was giving out lots of money for scientific research.  I had several graduate students and with Dr. Matson, we published papers in the Journals of Physics and Chemistry.

Then came the first offer to go to Texas Tech.  I accepted and Margie was making plans to return to her home territory near Lubbock.  Before we moved, I was visited by the president, Dr. E. H. Poteet and dean, Dr. James Jernigan from Texas A&I.  They made a special trip to Austin, talking me into going back to Kingsville.  So we did.  We moved our family from Linda Lane back to 310 W. Yoakum and began a new life.

We had another baby.  Ed was born May 19, 1959.  We built another house.  This was the yellow brick at 1220 W. Henrietta in Kingsville. We had our four children, I was a full Professor of Physics, we had built a nice home in a good section of town. Our children were well and happy. You might think we were satisfied and settled.  But, again the urge to move came.

My friend Bill Sandlin had taken the appointment to Texas Tech—the one I rescinded before.  He persuaded me to come help him with the creation of a first class department of Physics.  I once more signed a contract to teach and do research at Texas Tech, helping Bill create a doctoral program in Physics.

This was in May of 1962.  Dr. Jim Jernigan was now the President of Texas A&I and he and I thought alike.  I was a deacon in the First Baptist Church and my conservative ideas suited Dr. Jernigan.   So I agreed to stay in Kingsville after he talked with me about becoming academic dean of the University.  This was the final dream of my career.  I had reached the best place in a professional life in my home-town of Kingsville.  I was ecstatic.  Margie was happy and glad that I felt optimistic about what I could do for my graduate students and the whole university.  I was doing research and had several young physicists who were studying with me.  I was planning to continue mentoring them even after I became dean.  My new salary was very great by the standards of that time ($8,500 per year).  Dr. Jernigan was grooming me to be the next president after he retired.  So the excitement was enough to cause me to turn Texas Tech down a second time.  This was a great strain for me.  Remember, Robinsons do what they say they will do!

We had sold the house on Henrietta, preparing to move to Lubbock.  I followed my Daddy’s belief that I couldn’t go back on my word, so that meant, even though we were not moving, we had to leave the house so the new owner could move in.  So Margie and I found a rent house at 722 Santa Barbara, packed up the four kids and moved. I began to think about being the dean of my home-town university.  Life was very exhilarating and happy.  We purchased a lot on Henrietta Street and Margie began making plans for the new house we would build there.

That’s when I had the stroke.  I had brain surgery and never came out of the coma.  I left the Earth plane on July 15, 1962.  Margie and I had been married 15 years; we had met our goals of having 4 children; building homes and getting my doctorate.  I suppose I completed my mission.

I regret not being around to meet you.  I have been busy in other worlds and I will look after you from that distant spiritual place.  If you look up at the stars, you can think of me as one of those heavenly lights protecting you and loving you on your life journey.  My four children have become fine adults and our Robinson family has continued through Michael and Lee and you.
Welcome to this world, Lawson Paul Robinson.  Your Life will unfold in marvelous ways.  You are adored and loved and you are the continuation of our life.  I send my blessing to you.

From James M. Robinson, Jr., Ph.D. as imagined by Marjorie R. Barlow.