Joseph Robinson Jr. may best be known for running Robinson Foundry and Robinson Iron but those close to him remember Robinson as a good friend, mentor and community advocate.
Scotty Howell retired from Robinson Iron a couple of years ago but said that retirement was afforded to him by Robinson.
“I owe an awful lot to Joe Robinson Jr.,” Howell said. “He hired me in 1975 and gave me a chance to get an MBA at the school of my choice with the idea I would focus on a business for a new company called Robinson Iron. It was a spinoff of Robinson Foundry.”
Howell said he spent the next two years in Chicago.
“I developed that plan and came back to Alexander City in 1977,” Howell said. “Later Joe gave me the opportunity to get a small portion of the ownership of the company. He really gave me a true shot in life and career of 45 years that literally took me around the world.”
Howell said Robinson Foundry and Robinson Iron grew under Robinson.
“At one point Robinson Foundry was one of the largest employers in Alexander City and Robinson Iron was always a smaller company,” Howell said. “We grew and managed to get the foundry some business along the way.”
Howell said Robinson was more than just Robinson Foundry or Robinson Iron.
“Joe was a great guy,” Howell said. “He did so much. He was a great community leader. He was one of the principal guys starting the Gateway Foundation.”
Susan Foy was executive director at the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce when she really got to know Robinson.
“He understood workforce development and economic development,” Foy said.
Foy said it was Robinson who used his connections to get the Gateway Foundation going.
“He was instrumental in reaching out to politicians to help get going,” Foy said. “He helped raise the first $1 million for it. It was meant to go on for perpetuity so Benjamin Russell graduates could go on to Central Alabama. He understood how over time it could help develop a workforce and change the quality of life in the area.”
Thomas Radney said there was no need for a contract with Robinson.
“If Joe Robinson shook your hand, looked you in the eye and told you something, you knew that it was true and, rest assured, he did what he said that he was going to do,” Radney said.
Both Radney and Howell shared many meals with Robinson as part of the Lunch Bunch.
“I had the privilege of spending many lunch hours with Joe at the old lunch bunch,” Radney said. “I learned many things while there. Joe had an opinion about everything; Joe did not like spaghetti; and Joe was mad when the bank and post office were closed on Columbus Day.”
Howell said the white house on Central Avenue will be forever etched in his mind and associated with Robinson.
“The Lunch Bunch was a big part of our lives for a long time,” Howell said. “That was a big deal for a long time. It was great while it lasted. It was some good times.”
Radney said Robinson’s death will be felt by many.
“Joe was a very smart man and great community leader,”. Radney said. “The entire Robinson family has been trusted friends for a very long time. Joe will be missed by all who knew him.”
Howell said he will always remember Robinson and the legacy they left at Robinson Iron.
“Anybody that gives you a shot at a long career, there is no question he means a lot.
The company is still going strong. It is in good hands in my opinion. I’m just content to follow along.”