October 09, 2003
T. Sumner Robinson 1945-2003
By Susan McRae
Daily Journal Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES – T. Sumner Robinson, known for sharing his contagious enthusiasm for journalism during his five years as associate publisher and editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, has died. He was 58.
Robinson died Tuesday of complications from surgery while recovering from previous cancer surgery at Loudoun Hospital in suburban Virginia, according to his wife, Janet Andrew.
An inveterate journalist, Robinson is remembered by friends and colleagues for the individual care and encouragement he gave to those he worked with.
“I’ve never known an editor who had more ideas than Tim, and he was that rare breed of journalist who understood the business side, too,” said Thomas R. “Ray” Reynolds , former editor and publisher of the San Francisco Daily Journal and California Lawyer magazine.
Reynolds recalled that Robinson was the first to put larger headlines and photographs on the front page of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a practice that was considered “downright revolutionary at the time.”
“He wanted us to do ambitious work and led us in that direction,” recalled Daily Journal Managing Editor Martin Berg, who was a reporter when Robinson arrived at the paper in 1989.
“He was an inspirational editor and a good friend,” said David F. Pike, the Daily Journal’s U.S. Supreme Court correspondent in Washington, D.C.
Pike met Robinson 30 years ago when the two competed at rival papers. Robinson worked for The Washington Post, Pike at The Washington Star.
When Robinson left The Post in 1980 to become editor of the National Law Journal, he hired Pike as bureau chief, and the two have remained friends ever since.
Steve Trousdale, who became the Daily Journal’s managing editor during Robinson’s tenure, remembered the amazing stories Robinson used to tell about his work, like the day he had the lead story in every section of The Washington Post – including the sports section.
“He transmitted his love of journalism through stories like that,” Trousdale said.
Robinson also was a talented piano player. Mary Ann Galante, a reporter under Robinson at the National Law Journal, recalled how he once entertained everyone at a journalism convention banging out song after song.
“He was a good editor and cared about his staff on a personal level, as well,” Galante said. “He was informal – even when he was dressed up, he didn’t look dressed up – and had a wonderful, cracker-barrel sense of humor.”
Robinson, who retained his Southern accent and charm, grew up in Dora, Ala. At 15, he entered Walker College in Jasper, Ala., while working as a cub reporter at the Daily Mountain Eagle. Two years later, he moved to the Birmingham Post-Herald as assistant state editor and covered numerous major civil rights demonstrations during the early 1960s.
After graduating in 1965 from Birmingham’s Howard College (now Samford University), Robinson moved to Washington, D.C. He earned a master’s degree in communications from American University and, in 1969, joined The Washington Post as an editor, supervising coverage of local antiwar demonstrations. Four years later, he began covering the federal courts, reporting on trials growing out of the Watergate scandal.
On leaving the Daily Journal in 1995, Robinson moved to the Bay Area, where he became involved in media development for various Internet services, including Excite, AltaVista and NBCi.com.
For the past year, Robinson had been living in Reston, Va., working as a content supervisor for AOL.com. He and his wife also operated a media relations and Internet consulting company called Robinson Andrew Media.
Funeral services will take place Saturday at New Horizon Funeral Home in Dora, Ala. Instead of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to the Robinson Scholarship Fund, First National Bank, P.O. Box 31, Jasper AL 35502.