Dallas business leader and civil rights activist Marvin E. Robinson dies at 86

Marvin E. Robinson, who organized civil rights protests across the South in the 1960s before becoming an advocate for black business leadership and fairness in Dallas, has died at age 86.

Robinson died in his sleep Saturday at his Dallas home.

“Marvin was one of the leaders of the student sit-in movement,” said Reverend Peter Johnson, another civil rights leader from Dallas. “This is a huge loss for the civil rights movement. … The generation of African-American leaders of the civil rights movement is quickly leaving this land.

Shot June 27, 1973 - Marvin Robinson (right), executive director of the Dallas Council of the Interracial Council for Business Opportunity, presented Dallas Mayor Wes Wise with a copy of the Minority <a class=Business Directory on Wednesday. Charles Cullum (left), chairman of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce board of directors, also received the directory which lists 166 of the more than 400 minority-owned suppliers surveyed by the board. Jack Stephenson (second from left), an IBM Dallas area manager on loan to ICBO for a management consultant, helped. ” data-src=”https://dmn-dallas-news-prod.cdn.arcpublishing.com/resizer/lE0uLwWX4Dk77pBK1kDwB87z2SU=/930×0/smart/filters:no_upscale()/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/dmn/5NDAOH5XD5EUBKAGUVYUZVJLCM.jpg” class=”dmnc_images-img-module__1-ZBN max-w-full text-white object-contain dmnc_images-img-module__2c3Vz”/>
Shot June 27, 1973 – Marvin Robinson (right), executive director of the Dallas Council of the Interracial Council for Business Opportunity, presented Dallas Mayor Wes Wise with a copy of the Minority Business Directory on Wednesday. Charles Cullum (left), chairman of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce board of directors, also received the directory which lists 166 of the more than 400 minority-owned suppliers surveyed by the board. Jack Stephenson (second from left), an IBM Dallas area manager on loan to ICBO for a management consultant, helped. (John Young – personal photographer)

Born in Decatur, Alabama, Robinson grew up in Gary, Indiana, and attended Southern University, Louisiana’s largest historically black university, in Baton Rouge, as a track athlete.

He was elected president of the student government, and in 1960 helped organize sit-ins at separate meal counters and a march on the Louisiana State Capitol. His sit-in sparked similar events in New Orleans, leading to a 1963 United States Supreme Court ruling that broke up restaurants in the state.

The protests had Robinson arrested for disturbing the peace and expelling him from college, 28 days before graduation.

Johnson, who was a teenager in Baton Rouge at the time, said his father helped raise funds to get Robinson and several other students out of prison.

“Marvin was a tremendous advocate for civil and equal rights,” said longtime friend Billy Allen. “You had absolutely no worries that Marvin wasn’t going to fight to give his best. He was going to represent the African American community to the best of his ability. “

After leaving Baton Rouge, Robinson attended Howard University Law School and was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which worked to organize civil rights protests in the South in the 1960s. He was also a field director for the Racial Equality Congress, where he continued to organize anti-segregation efforts in the Jim Crow South.

Johnson and Leah Robinson-Leach, Robinson’s daughter, said he also participated in the 1961 Freedom Rides, where integrated groups of students traveled by bus across the South to protest the separate bus stations.

“He would tell us about it, but at the end of the day he was just a dad,” said Robinson-Leach.

Robinson received a law degree from Howard in 1968 and moved to Dallas a few years later, where he helped form networking groups for young black professionals in the city. He continued to use his leadership positions to fight systemic racism.

“He’s spent his entire life trying to bring equity and opportunity to people of color,” Allen said. “Marvin Robinson, to me, was a role model, a mentor.”

In 1976, Robinson was commissioned to transform Dallas’ Crozier Technical High School into the city’s Magnet Business and Management High School, where he was the only black principal of such an institution. Students wore work clothes and were free to take regular coffee breaks as they would in a corporate workplace.

Robinson later worked as an executive for the Xerox Corporation with a focus on improving the representation of minorities in the company. When he was a member of the Dallas Park board of directors in 1980, he led a campaign to disassociate a Dallas flower show from Fair Park due to all-white membership in local garden clubs.

In 1983, he ran for a seat on the Dallas City Council, but lost in a runoff. A few years later, Robinson testified in a lawsuit regarding the council’s district voting system, claiming he was at a disadvantage as a candidate because of his race.

After leaving Xerox as vice president in 1985, he tried to start a Burger King franchise – but spoke out after no Dallas bank reportedly gave him an entrepreneurial loan despite his successful career at the company. .

“The banks said I wasn’t qualified, but I was qualified to run Xerox,” Robinson said. The morning news from Dallas in 1988. “They do the same in country clubs.”

Robinson eventually opened the franchise and was president of a company that provided concessions to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Robinson-Leach said his father cares deeply for his family and enjoys traveling with his wife, Yvonne Metoyer Robinson, three children and six grandchildren. The family regularly took vacations to the Caribbean island of St. Martin and other international destinations. She said her dad had a great personality that made everyone feel like a close friend.

Allen said he learned to raise his own children by looking at Robinson like a father.

“The way he did it, what he did,” Allen said. “Our children took advantage of it.

Besides his wife of 62 years and daughter, Robinson is survived by his son, Marvin Robinson Jr., and another daughter, Melissa Robinson-Chavez, and six grandchildren. A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date.


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