Ronald A. Robinson of Little Rock, veteran communications professional and namesake of the library theatre in the River Market District, died on August 14 following a lengthy illness. He was 75.
Ron was former chairman and chief executive officer of CJRW, a full-service marketing and communications firm in Little Rock. His storied career at the agency began as a college intern. He then joined the firm full-time in 1970 and stayed until his retirement in 1996. During his tenure, CJRW became the largest advertising agency in Arkansas and its list of clients read like a "who's-who" in Arkansas business and politics. It is an understatement to say that his partnership with Wayne Cranford, Jim Johnson, Shelby Woods and Wayne Woods was highly successful.
Rising to the rank of captain in the U.S. Air Force, Ron was awarded a Bronze Star in Vietnam and also received the Air Force Commendation Medal in 1969 for his support of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
He was a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. While there, he served as editor of the school newspaper, the Arkansas Traveler. In addition, the late Orville Henry, sports editor of the Arkansas Gazette, hired Ron as a stringer to cover Razorback sports. It was probably the most enviable job on campus. Ron later studied public relations at Boston University Graduate School of Public Communications.
Ron kept a busy schedule at work, arriving early and staying late. What free time he had was spent as an avid collector of U.S. postage stamps, vintage movie posters and Arkansas political and historical memorabilia. He enjoyed showing his collection to friends at his home, which many friends compared to a cozy museum.
Ron's public relations skills have left lasting legacies for Arkansas. In 1986, the year of Arkansas' sesquicentennial, he arranged for his client Arkansas Power & Light Company (now Entergy Arkansas) to underwrite the writing and production of a commemorative song as a gift to the state. The song, Arkansas, You Run Deep in Me, was written and sung by Ron's college roommate, Wayland Holyfield, now a country music writer and recording artist in Nashville, Tennessee. Ron's brainchild was an instant hit and in 1987, the Arkansas legislature named it an official song of the state.
In 1993, he was appointed to the United States Postal Service Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee by the U.S. Postmaster General. The group is responsible for providing recommendations of topics to be shown on all U.S. postage stamps. During his 15-year membership, he was involved in the creation and production of more than 1,750 postage stamp issues. Ron used his influence to make certain Arkansas was the subject of several newly-issued postage stamps.
At one time, Ron owned almost 18,000 movie posters featuring everything from silent movies to current motion pictures. Of those, 200 posters have an Arkansas tie, and many were donated by Robinson through the years to the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS).
In 2014, CALS opened a new $10 million, 315-seat state-of-the-art theater inside the Arcade Building at Little Rock's River Market and named the new venue Ron Robinson Theater in honor of Robinson's generosity and his many years of service to CALS. Its grand opening spanned several days to accommodate Ron's many friends.
The list of Ron's awards and accolades are too numerous to list Among them were "Business Executive of the Year" by Arkansas Business, and the Aluminum Award (now Crystal Award) by the Arkansas Chapter, Public Relations Society of America for lifetime service. He was also honored for his numerous professional accomplishments by the American Advertising Federation, North American Advertising Network, Public Relations Society of America, the International Association of Business Communicators and the National Public Relations Network.
The University of Arkansas Alumni Association honored Ron in 1997 with its Community Service Award, which is presented annually to a UA graduate whose volunteer leadership has contributed significantly to the advancement of civic, state and national progress. He was honored in 2005 as a "Distinguished Alumnus" of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and "The Ronald A. Robinson Scholarship" was established for deserving journalism students at UA.
Ron was predeceased by his parents, Edgar (Putt) and Martha Robinson. He is survived by a son, Reid Robinson; Reid's wife, Jennifer; granddaughters Lauren Greer and Arden Katherine Robinson; a cousin, Allen Scott of Jenks, Oklahoma; and a host of extended family, friends and professional acquaintances.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Central Arkansas Library.
Produced by Deborah Grace. Edited by Seth Padgett.