A Family Feud Over the Life and Legacy of the Late, Great Hugh Robinson
Hugh Robinson was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' first African American general officer.
Dueling obits -- always a bad sign. This time the dark cloud of family unrest gathers over the death of Hugh Robinson (or Hughes, depending on which obit you read).
The first obituary, which ran March 5 in The Dallas Morning News, did mention Major General Robinson's stepchildren but neglected to mention his biological children. A second paid obit, which ran March 11, corrected the record and gave a fuller account of Robinson's illustrious national and local careers.
Getting his career right is very important for the record. Robinson is a big deal in Dallas history. Among other things, in the 1990s, after he had retired from the military (where he worked as a top aide to LBJ), he helped pull Dallas back from the brink of social catastrophe through the "Dallas Together" process.
Somebody just needs to get his story down properly. And, in fact, it looks as if Joe Simnacher, The News' always astute editorial obituary writer, did straighten out some of the kinks.
For the uninitiated, there are two kinds of obits in newspapers. One is the paid death notice that the family writes and then pays for to run as a classified ad. And then, if the dead person is important enough, there is an "editorial obituary" by a staff writer at the paper.
In this case, as in most, the dueling obits reflect dueling families -- one from early in Robinson's life, the other one later. The later family got its paid obit in first.
In fact, the anomaly here is a bit more than that.
The death of Hugh Robinson should have been a front page or Metro front news story before it was either an editorial or paid obituary. The fault probably is not the paper's. Somebody in the family end just didn't understand how to handle a death of this significance. And it was not the Washington (original) family. They would know.
This could go to more than merely a dispute over survivors. The second obit mentions an autopsy to determine cause of death -- a bit unusual -- and there are rumors today of a dispute about where and when the burial is to take place.
Sadly, this kind of thing occurs in all kinds of families. This happens to be the family -- or families -- of a distinguished and important figure in history. Hopefully they will bury the ax long enough to bury the man.
Here's a bit from the first paid obit:
"Hugh is survived by his bride of twelve years, Paula Raymond-Robinson and his stepchildren by that marriage Clifton Tisdale-Brown, Marquel Russell and Chelsie Raymond. Hugh is also survived by his former wife Matilda Robinson and by their daughter from that marriage, Mia Lane, granddaughter Indya Lane and grandson Omar Spence. Hugh was predeceased by his deceased wife Paula McLure-Robinson."
Now, from the second paid obit:
"Countless memories will be treasured by his son Col. Hugh G. Robinson, Jr., Ret. and his wife Kim; his daughter Susan Robinson Wells and her husband Art and her daughter Ashley; Hugh and Susan's mother, Karen W. Robinson; his sister Leonora Robinson Fay and her husband David; step-daughter Mia Lane; long-time friend and business partner, Ken Blow; administrative assistant of 15 years, Sandy Garcia; and a host of family and friends."
And, from Simnacher:
"In addition to his wife, Gen. Robinson is survived by his son, Hugh Robinson Jr. of Lorton, Va.; a daughter, Susan Wells of Silver Spring, Md.; a sister, Grace Fay of Vienna, Va.; Mrs. Robinson's children and some of their foster children, Clifton Tisdale-Brown of DeSoto, Marquel Russell of Washington, D.C., Kenneth Farr of Arlington, Brandon Brown of DeSoto, Chelsie Raymond Hugh of DeSoto and Esmeralda Garcia of DeSoto; and four grandchildren. "
More to come.