Log Cabin Democrat reporters contacted several business, political and community leaders and former associates of longtime Publisher Frank E. Robins III and asked them to reflect on his career.
Here is what they told us:
“I remember when we first moved to Arkansas, and I became director of the press association. Frank came by our offices with a 36-square-foot beautifully framed map of Arkansas, suitable for any wall. Then, he sat down with me and went over the entire map, giving me a geography lesson of the state. The map was nice, but it was even more thoughtful of him to bring me up to speed on our new home.
“He also read every obituary every day in the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat. He would regularly call me, at least once a week, and say something like, ‘Dennis, there’s no reason you should know this person, but John Jones (a fictitious example), the representative for 20 years for Western Printing Company, just died and his company regularly supported the press association, and at our conventions sponsored the biggest spread of shrimp you’d ever see.’ It wasn’t just people who died, but anyone and anything it would be helpful to be aware of — that I would have no way of knowing but needed to know — he would inform me about.
“Frank served many years as treasurer of the press association, and he did such a good job that everyone just kept re-electing him to that position. Most people don’t appreciate the many years of service he put into that position, and in some years, when the finances were tough, he kept the boat afloat. I’ve had more than one person tell me that they now wished they would have moved him up to president of the association, but as humble as he was, he was agreeable to being basically the permanent treasurer.
“After he left the newspaper, he still came to every convention and a lot of events. Some people, when they get out, take a ‘been there, done that’ approach. But he and Dorothy kept coming to conventions, and they didn’t just go and spend a lot of time with old friends and colleagues. He went to seminars and workshops and would always talk to different people and pass on what he had learned.”
former head of the Arkansas Press Association
“I was assigned to cover the Conway Corp. when I started working at the Log Cabin, and Frank had already been chairman of the board for many years. Writing about anything Frank was involved in meant submitting your articles to him for review. A lot of people in the community thought Frank only wanted good news reported out of things he was involved in, but that wasn’t the case. There were many times I sat in his office as he reviewed something I had written — that was always an uncomfortable feeling, by the way — and he would start shaking his head and say something like, ‘I wish he hadn’t said that,’ or even, ‘I wish I hadn’t said that,’ referring to himself. But he never took that stuff out of the articles. When Frank said he wanted the news reported accurately, that included when it did not necessarily reflect accurately on him or one of his institutions. ... If you worked for Frank, you could not help but have a deep appreciation for doing things correctly. For some, it was based on a fear of not being summoned to his office over some mistake. But for those who were the most successful, it was about realizing the importance of care and accuracy in everything that you did. Whenever I have been asked about my influences in journalism, he has always been at the top of my list. Not only did working for Frank make me a better journalist, more importantly, it made me a better person.”
—David Keith, former managing editor of the Log Cabin Democrat
“I’ll remember him as a true friend and one I had known all of my life. Frank was just a year or so older than I am. He was an outstanding athlete at Conway High School, first team on the 1944 Conway Wampus Cat team. Frank was a unique individual — one that, every conversation with him was a learning experience for the hearer. He was a true and faithful friend and supporter of mine. I’ll miss him immensely.”
— Stanley Russ, former state senator
“In 1975 or 1976, I was 21 or 22 and working for the Cabin, and I was all caught in the new thing at the time called ‘progressive country music,’ or ‘outlaw music,’ as represented largely by Willie Nelson. I adored Willie in his new scruffy incarnation. Frank was a fan of Willie from Willie’s straight-arrow Nashville songwriting days in the 60s. So Frank and I, the oddest of couples, hauled off and went to a Willie Nelson concert at Barton, sitting there on the front row amid the waft of illegal substance. We had a helluva time. On the way back in Frank’s big 4-wheel-drive pickup, he said, ‘Don’t take this to mean I want to go see ZZ Top with you.’ To this date, Frank remains the most precise stickler for journalistic and grammatical detail that I ever worked with. The main thing he did, it seems clear to me, is put out, in his heyday, the best smalltown newspaper in Arkansas.”
— John Brummett,
columnist, Arkansas News Bureau
“Frank carried forth a family tradition of publishing. Sadly, it was not to be passed on. Conway Printing was the company that published the Log Cabin and is still in business carrying on the family tradition. His grandfather Frank Robins Sr. was one of the influential personages in Conway. Frank Sr. and his brother came up with Conway Corp. Later, Frank III served on the board and continued to contribute to the community in that regard.”
“I understand he was quite a chess player in his early days, though I never had the opportunity to play with him.”
“Sonny was his nickname growing up and in school. It was what Mom always called him as well as other members of the family.”
“He loved to do things with his hands. He enjoyed woodworking.”
“He was a private pilot. He had a very nice plane for awhile.”
—Bill Ferguson of Conway Printing and nephew of Robins: (His mother Mary Virginia Robins Ferguson was Frank’s sister.)
“He is one of the guys, who from my earliest memories, is one of the giants of Conway. He was editor of the paper, chairman of the board at Conway Corp. When you think of a city father, he was one of those guys. He was a great man from a great family. His daughter Laura was close to my age.”
“It is obviously a tremendous loss. He and his generation had passed the torch, and the torch was in good shape. The community is in such wonderful shape because of his efforts.”
—Tab Townsell, Conway mayor
“I had several conversations with Mr. Robins. He really assisted me in 2003 when I was working on the UCA World War II memorial honoring those who passed away. The Air Force was not called the Air Force until 1947. It was called the Army Air Forces or Army Air Corps. I had called it the Army Air Force, and Mr. Robins called and said, ‘No, it is called Army Air Forces.’ The name sounds unusual, but Mr. Robins corrected me, and I am glad he did that. He made it clear to me.” (Bryant called to verify the information with the Air Force, which initially said it was Army Air Force but later corrected themselves to be Army Air Forces.)
“After taking several research steps, I found out Mr. Robins was right.”
“As for Faulkner County history, he paid me a high compliment. He was impressed with my archives. Receiving a compliment from Frank Robins was a big deal to me personally.”
“He was at the top of my list to call as a resource. He helped me a great deal. He was a very knowledgeable man. I certainly respected him. I hated to see his obituary in the paper because he was a great resource.”
—Jimmy Bryant, Faulkner County justice of the peace and UCA archivist
“I worked with Frank 43 or 44 years. Frank was a perfectionist. He wanted everything perfect, and it usually ended that way. He was kind and generous. He was just a friend as well as an employer for all these years. He was well thought-of in his profession and admired to a certain extent. I enjoyed working there. If I hadn’t enjoyed my work, I wouldn’t have stayed over 40 years. It was a good place to work.”
—Ina Martin, former Log Cabin employee
“I was a journalism major at the University of Arkansas, and the Robinses were for years like the name ‘Charlotte Schexnayder’ and ‘J.E. Dunlap’ — giants in Arkansas community journalism. Anybody who studied journalism or worked in journalism knew of Mr. Robins and the Log Cabin Democrat, which was, and I think still is, one of small-town America’s good newspapers. Later, as I worked with Sen. (David) Pryor on his staff, I came in touch with the Log Cabin Democrat, and I knew of the influence and the depth of commitment of Mr. Robins. His was just a way of life in Arkansas journalism. He built one heck of a great newspaper.”
—Skip Rutherford, dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service