He’s always been a bit of a mystery to me, my father’s father. Because he died in a random car accident at the age of 87, and when I was just two weeks old, I have no memory of him at all. He’s a mishmash of family lore and photos in my mind, yet his blood courses through my veins in a symphony of genetics.

IMG_5230John Wesley Robinson, born on this day in the year of our country’s centennial, would be 140 years old if he was still living. Remember, now, that this is my grandfather, the only “great” in front of his name being about his character. He was 60 years old when my father was born (which makes just about every man I’ve told stand and salute) and there was a story about him walking with my very young dad down the streets of old Plano, when he was stopped by some men sitting on a bench:

“Is that your youngest there, John?”

“So far, I reckon. So far!”

I imagine howls of laughter erupting from that bench as the man in his 60’s grinned, tousling the hair of his toe-headed son whom I know was flashing his trademark, dimpled grin from ear-to-ear.

There, in the earliest days of Plano, he was a share-cropper, having come from his home in the hills of Tennessee to make his way in the world. My dad was the youngest of eight – seven boys and one girl – born to two Marys, John marrying the older boy’s school teacher, Mary Price, after the first Mary passed away. They didn’t have much money, yet when a loan was forgiven, he still made payments until it was officially paid off because it he owed it and it was the right thing to do.

He was well known in the community, and 0cdc4f84-673a-4c47-bff3-f0ec6c19ee1cwell-respected, even though he was not a large land-holder, and in 1994 his name was honored by the opening of a new school, with all of his living family in attendance. Robinson Middle School is a thriving center of learning to this day, a testament to him and a mark of our family’s roots in the community.

I’m proud of my heritage. Hardworking and God-fearing, my grandfather paved the way for his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and many great-great grandchildren, all of the latter two generations not knowing him at all. He left a legacy of honesty, integrity, and character for which I’m so grateful.

Happy 140th, Grandpa! I hope you are surrounded by your Marys, and your seven kiddos who’ve joined you, celebrating today with some good collards and cornbread! I know your youngest is celebrating in his heart, flashing his trademark dimpled grin at your every remembrance.

And so am I.


But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children… Psalm 103:17 ESV