Legacy of Ed Robinson
Sometimes you don’t realize how blessed you are to have someone until he or she is gone. When I looked at an email alert Wednesday, I realized that feeling. Ed Robinson’s early and unexpected death was shocking and saddening to me. He once said, “Will, you are the Ed Robinson of the white community.” I took this as an enormous compliment but what does it mean? Ed was a dissenting voice of volume and political incorrectness.
Like many men of influence before him, he did not let naysayers get him down but to empower him. He was the only member of the City Council to support a movement of FMU Alumni to start a football team because he believed it would be good for our community by providing opportunity for black youth in his district to attend FMU on a football scholarship instead of roaming the streets in a blighted neighborhood long forgotten by the few powerful white people that run the Florence area.
Also, by providing jobs for people in the downtown area on game days in a new stadium. One time, I brought Councilman Robinson with me to an Airport Authority meeting in Florence. His presence moved the room because everyone present knew he had the courage to speak his mind if he sensed injustice or mismanagement. The tragedy is that I am sure many powers that be will try to placate the black community at the funeral of Ed Robinson by saying how great he was after he died knowing full well these same powerful people tried everything they could to destroy and discredit this great man while he was alive.
People like Florence City Council, except for George Jebaily, and the Morning News Editorial Board telling Ed Robinson to “shut up” in a recent editorial. His funeral will surely be largest Florence has ever seen. His friends loved him and his enemies secretly respected him. Florence really does not have freedom of speech. Intimidation of voices is the norm to keep unpopular but true speech from surfacing. I admire the courage of Ed Robinson to speak his mind on behalf of a downtrodden part of Florence.
A part of Florence that a Sports Illustrated reporter doing a story on Clayton Holmes once called a city of “neck high sludge.” As we saw with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sometimes only loud and unapologetic voices will suffice. Ed’s body has died, his soul is surely in heaven but his voice and legacy are in the hands of District 2 residents in Florence. Filing to replace Ed opens April 8 and closes April 18. I do not live in that district but I want to do what I can to keep the legacy of Ed Robinson alive.
You see, many people think Florence is better off with Ed Robinson no longer alive. To the contrary, Florence has never been worse off. We have lost the sole dissenting voice. A voice that represented an alternative view and that of the downtrodden. A dissenting and loud passionate voice always makes any governmental body better. What will you do District 2 residents? I sincerely hope someone steps forward to keep the voice of Ed Robinson alive on City Council by filing for his seat.
I also hope that the City Council names a park or a building after this great public servant. I think a fitting tribute would be a speakers’ corner like Atlanta has. The stage beside Wholly Smokin Restaurant downtown could be the Ed Robinson Free Speech Park. People could show up Saturdays at noon to speak about anything they wish while others revel in hearing a different point of view, all with an eye towards identifying and solving the problems of our area. Ed Robinson was my friend, a fellow veteran and a fellow Christian. It hurts me greatly to think I can no longer pick up the phone to call him, but I rejoice that he has earned the rest he deserved as he now sits in the presence of God. Goodbye my friend. Job well done. I miss you. Will Breazeale. Florence,