Frank E. Robins III loved Conway and accuracy, not necessarily in that order.
"I’ll remember he always asked us, ‘Why is there not enough time to do something right, but there is always enough time to do something over?’" said Loyd Ryan, a vice president for finance and facilities development at Hendrix College who served both as a news editor and managing editor of the Log Cabin Democrat when Robins was publisher.
Robins, owner-publisher of the Log Cabin for 35 years and a much-decorated civic leader, died Saturday night. He was 80 years old.
His penchant for detail and accuracy is legendary to all who worked for him.
"When I came to the Log Cabin, I thought I had high standards as far as spelling, grammar and the mechanics other than just putting together and writing a story," said John L. Ward, who also served as managing editor at the Log Cabin under Robins. "Once I started working under Frank, I realized I needed to have higher standards than I did.
"He was very hard-nosed about assumptions. Reporters, in gathering information for a story, sometimes tended to make two or three assumptions so they could crank out one story and go on to something else. Frank hated assumptions. If you made an assumption and it was wrong, he was a hard man to deal with."
"His demand on accuracy, his attention to detail and his love of history became etched on all who worked for him," Ryan said. "I’ve had lots of teachers and professors during my life, but no one taught me more than Frank Robins. And it wasn’t just journalism but about business and life in general. And so many of the things he taught me, I use to this day. For example, I never write a memo or handle a piece of paper that comes across my desk without putting a date on it."
"You dated everything, but the day of the week better match up to the date, or you’d be in trouble," Ward said.
"It is a cliché, and Frank hated clichés, but they don’t make newsmen like him anymore," said Joe Mosby, who worked as a reporter at the Log Cabin under Robins. "My association with Frank began in 1953 when he was discharged from the Air Force and returned to the Log Cabin. I had been on the staff a few months but had not met him. The news staff was Joe McGee, Frank and I plus a ‘society’ writer. Frank wasn’t far into his 30s when his father died in 1959 and the whole load of the Log Cabin fell on him. He handled it remarkably well.
"He was an innovator in the arrival of offset printing and later in the coming of the computer age for newspapers. These were mechanical developments. Where Frank stood out was making and keeping the Log Cabin a people’s paper. It moved and breathed and reflected what was going on in Conway and Faulkner County. It wasn’t perfect; no publication is. But the Log Cabin under Frank for all his years as publisher was dependable, reliable and respected."
Ward said Robins was always thinking of the community first.
"Frank loved Conway and whatever he did that I observed — whether it was as a publisher or involved with various boards, and there were so many community activities — Frank always tried to do what was in the best interests of Conway and its people," Ward said. "He was always working to improve Conway, and he was very important in the development of Conway. When he served as chairman of its board of directors, Conway Corp. was very important to the development of Conway, and Frank worked real hard at that. Conway benefitted from his determination to make Conway Corp. the best it could be during his tenure."
Robins met Jim Brewer, the former head of Conway Corp., when they were students at the University of Central Arkansas in 1945. They were both close friends and associates from that point on.
"Frank was a great asset to Conway and the Conway community," Brewer said. "He became involved in the things he did because he was very interested in Conway and its people. He was a swell fellow and a very benevolent person beyond what people knew because he didn’t seek the spotlight. He was one of the most organized people I have ever known and he produced a good and accurate newspaper. Sometimes to Frank, a misspelled word was the worst thing that could happen."
"A lot of people don’t realize how important Frank was to the development of Toad Suck Daze," said Ward, who was one of the original organizers of the icon festival in Conway. "It was not something I thought Frank might be heavily involved in, but at the very beginning, I went into Frank’s office and told him that to put this thing together would take a great deal of time on my part (in addition to his role as managing editor of the newspaper). He was OK with that and encouraged me and became a very active supporter and participant from the beginning."
"Frank was an adviser, teacher, friend and mentor," Ryan said. "He was one of a kind."
"Working with him represented some of the best years of my life," Ward said. "And I learned lessons that I will take with me all the rest of my life."