James S. Robinson Jr. Project
Beatrice L. Saunders Robinson Project
Saunders Robinson Family Archives
July 24, 2013
Dr. June Pickett Dowdy, chairperson of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie ASALH chapter, suggested that Ronald B. Saunders prepare a program for a panel discussion for his parents, Beatrice L. Saunders Robinson and James S. Robinson, Jr. on their achievements and contributions to the Pittsburgh community. ASALH is the Association For The Study Of African American Life and History.
Beatrice L. Saunders Robinson was the nation's first African American female to serve as treasurer of a major union. She was chairman of The Pittsburgh Courier Unit of the American Newspaper Guild, president of the Francis Street Friendly Circle Club, dean of Harty Bible School of Christian Tabernacle Church, and trustee of Christian Tabernacle Church. Mrs. Robinson held many other directorships and positions in the Christian Tabernacle Church Community.
James S. Robinson, Jr. was director of Hill City Youth Municipality, assistant director of the Kay Boys Club and executive director of the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community Center in Butler, PA. Mr. Robinson was recognized as being an authority on juvenile delinquency and prevention. He also was the second African American in the United States to receive the American Legion Honor School Award which he received in 1925 while attending the Watts Street School which later became Robert L. Vann Elementary School. Mr. Robinson was one of the first persons of color to become registered as a master in the martial arts of judo and akaido.
Ronald B. Saunders introduced the following panelists:
Dr. Lutitia Clipper (Manager Natural Gas Vehicles Business Development, Deaconess, Board Member of Christian Tabernacle Church). Dr. Clipper gave an excellent presentation on how Mrs. Saunders Robinson contributed invaluable, exemplary, dedicated service to Christian Tabernacle Church and the greater community at large. Dr. Clipper also stated that she was going include Mr. and Mrs. Robinson in a special fall program titled: "Heroes of Christian Tabernacle Church".
Ronald B. Saunders spoke about his mother being president of the Francis Street Friendly Circle Club which was located in the Hill District designed to help neighborhood youth with camperships and memberships to the YMCA. The Club provided funds for kids going to college as well as clothes and funds for those in the community who were in need. The Francis Street Friendly Circle also raised funds to donate to the Center Avenue YMCA's its first television set.
Hop Kendrick (Longtime Civil and Human Rights Activist and Leader). Mr. Kendrick said he was old enough to have known James S. Robinson and his great contributions to Hill City and the Hill District at large. Mr. Kendrick further said that "if there were people like "Jim" Robinson around, we would not have the problems that plague the Hill District and the black community that we have today". Mr. Kendrick stated that "Jim" Robinson, Bob Lavelle and Mal Goode were titans in their communities and whose talents are sorely missed today. Mr. Kendrick stated Carl Redwood, Jr. reminded him of Jim Robinson with his caring, selfless, dedicated attitude to help people in need.
Velma Jean Robinson (Niece of James S. Robinson and Beatrice L. Saunders Robinson). Ms. Robinson stated that she remembers her uncle "Jim" as always being "on top of his game". Ms. Robinson said that she remembers that while a family gathering was being held in Schenley Park, uncle "Jim" abruptly left the gathering. She later found out that her uncle was involved in a law enforcement activity. Ms. Robinson stated that her uncle "Jim" was a man before his time and was a man of numerous talents.
Bill Howard (Member of the famous Hill City Band). Mr. Howard and his brother, Ronnie were members of the Hill City Band in the mid and late 1950's. Although they did not know Mr. Robinson, Mr. Howard shared many stories about his activities in the band which helped to prepare him and his brother Ronnie in becoming good musicians. Mr. Howard stated that he enjoyed wearing the Hill City Band uniform and marching in the band on Sundays in the spring and summer. He also stated that many jazz musicians in Pittsburgh played in the Hill City Band which was nationally acclaimed.
Carl Redwood, Jr. (Chairperson of the Hill District Consensus Group and son of Carl Redwood, Sr.). Mr. Redwood stated that he felt that the Hill City Youth Municipality model should be evaluated for use in today's world. Mr. Redwood further stated it was unfortunate that there are not programs like Hill City today which could be so helpful to young people and adults trying to navigate their way successfully through the challenges and obstacles present in today's society. Mr. Redwood further stated that Hill City Youth Municipality was the first of its kind juvenile delinquency prevention program in the US which was a youth self governing program that used the youth to act in the capacity of a mayor, city council members, juvenile court personnel, investigators and prosecuting attorneys. The youth were assisted by professionals who were judges, lawyers and other lay people who instructed and directed the youth in their roles as mayor, prosecuting attorney, etc. Mr. Redwood also stated that Hill City taught each youth who utilized its services self respect and pride in the Hill District community
Ronald B. Saunders stated that Hill City Youth Municipality was created in March of 1939 by Howard McKinney who was connected to Pittsburgh's Friendly Service Bureau which was a part of the Department of Public Safety. In March, 1940, Hill City had 2600 citizens, ranging from nine to twenty one years of age of which 2100 were African Americans which reflected half the African American population in that age range in the Hill District and 500 white boys and girls of a dozen nationalities.
* Edna B. Chapell who later became Dr. Edna B. McKenzie was the first Black female reporter in history at the Pittsburgh Courier. Mrs. Beatrice Saunders Robinson who was head the Courier unit of the American Newspaper Guild represented Dr. Edna B. McKenzie.
A brief question and answered period followed.
Meeting was adjourned at 12:00 noon.
|Foreign Missionary Special Event Day. Pictured from left to right are: Althea Austin, Beatrice L. Robinson and Aluvia Butler. Mrs. Austin served as a longtime foreign missionary at the Killingsworth Mission Church and School in Monrovia, Liberia. Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Butler were members of the Foreign Missionary Society.|