Robinson , Robert S.
Robert S. Robinson was born February 15, 1907 in Temple, Texas and died May 14, 1954 in Los Angeles, California. In spite of Oregon's "Exclusion Law" that forbid African-Americans from emigrating to Oregon, Robinson and his mother settled in Portland in 1922 where he enrolled at Jefferson High School. In a short time Robinson was a popular multi-sport star at Jefferson where he excelled in football playing halfback, quarterback, kicker, punter, kick returner, punt returner and defensive back. He also excelled in basketball, track & field pole vaulting and baseball. In spite of the fact that University of Oregon practiced segregated student housing, and the Ku Klux Klan was a significant power in Eugene the Ducks recruited Robinson and his high school friend and rival Charles Williams to play football. Both Williams (1923) and Robinson (1925)had been First Team All-League selections. Upon arriving in Eugene, the school informed Robinson and Williams that they would not be allowed to stay in campus dormitories because of their race and found them an apartment in Eugene. In 1926, after a very successful freshman football season, the white players on the team insisted that Robinson and Williams be allowed to live on campus. The college allowed them to live in Friendly Hall beginning their sophomore year, but they had to use a specially made separate entrance and stay in a separate apartment in the dormitory. In spite of this impediment they moved about the dormitory as they pleased and mixed with the other students. Robinson was an instant star his sophomore year as a starter at quarterback. He not only excelled as a quarterback, but also at halfback, receiver, punter, kicker, punt returner, kick returner and defensive back. He also excelled in track as a pole vaulter. Along with Williams he played a significant role in the Duck's great 1928 season which produced a 9 win 2 loss record which was the best in Oregon history. During the season Robinson and Williams were often refused accomodations in different hotels and restaurants when the team traveled, and the last game of their senior year they were not allowed to compete when the University of Florida informed the University of Oregon administration that they would not play the Ducks in Florida if the two Black players were allowed to play. Oregon left Robinson and Williams home and lost the game. Robinson is number 6 on the all-time Oregon list for the longest interception return for a touchdown. In 1929, Robinson made an interception against the University of Washington, and just before he reached the goal line a Washington Husky player name Larry Westerweller, who was not in the game, rushed onto the field and tackled Robinson before he could score the sure touchdown. The game officials awarded Robinson the 92-yard touchdown. Robinson's senior year he earned All-Coast honors as a halfback, and in 1930 was the Northern Pacific Conference champion and record holder in the pole vault with a leap of 13 feet 1 5/8 in. Also in 1930, he qualified to compete in the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Chicago where he vaulted 13 ft. and finished in a tie for second place with three other vaulters. After college he continued to pole vault in Canada where he had much success. The following year he once again won the northern division title with a record vault of 13 ft. 7 inches. During the meet he narrowly missed breaking the world record. The February, 1931 (Vol. 13, No. 5) issue of OLD OREGON magazine recounts Robinson's success in the pole vault: "Robinson broke the Canadian pole vault record last summer by clearing the bar at 13 feet 6 inches. Bobby also is the northern conference champion. Hayward hopes he will break the world's record this year." He did not break the world record, but was Oregon's greatest pole vaulter of his era. Robinson was inducted into the Portland Interscholastic League Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.