Ralph L. Robinson Jr., 83, Sun photographer

May 30, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Ralph L. "Robbie" Robinson Jr., a retired Sunpapers photographer whose work graced The Sun and The Evening Sun for nearly three decades, took his own life Thursday at his home in Wells, Maine. He was 83.

"When I came here, he was part of a group of photographers that were right out of The Front Page. They knew how to do their jobs and have fun, and Robbie was one of them," said Jed Kirschbaum, longtime Sun staff photographer.

Mr. Robinson, who was born in Baltimore and raised in Govans, was a graduate of city public schools. He served in the Marine Corps during World War II in the Pacific.

"He went down to enlist in the Marine Corps and was rejected because of bad eyesight. That night, he memorized the eye chart and went back the next day and passed the test," said Walter M. McCardell Jr., retired Sun photographer and Mr. Robinson's brother-in-law.

Mr. Robinson married Mr. McCardell's sister, Mary I. McCardell, in 1948.

"He wanted to be a photographer, and Bob Kniesche, who was then The Sun's photo director, told him that if he graduated from a photography school in New York City, he'd give him a job," said Mr. McCardell.

"He graduated and came back from New York but there were no jobs at that time in the photo department, so he worked doing portraits for Udel Brothers and later Blakeslee-Lane, North Charles Street photographers," Mr. McCardell said.

Mr. Robinson joined the newspaper as a staff photographer in 1955.

"He was one of the young, promising photographers that the newspaper was hiring at the time. He was always a guy who was easy to work with," said John H. Plunkett, retired assistant managing editor of The Sun.

"He really was a good all-around news photographer," Mr. McCardell said.

"He had an eye for a good photograph and worked hard at getting it," said Clarence "Curly" Garrett, a Sun photographer from 1943 to 1983. "He was a very jovial, gentle and considerate person."

"The best Ralph story is the time he took his wife to the State Theater on Monument Street, and two men got into a fight," said Weyman D. Swagger, a Sun photo editor. "One man pulled a revolver, and Ralph jumped in. He jammed the web of his hand between the hammer and frame of the gun so it couldn't be fired. One of the men said to Ralph, `Get off me, I'm a cop.' Ralph was tough, and that was the kind of thing that you didn't expect from a man who was so gentle."

When Mr. Robinson was sent to Union Memorial Hospital to cover the shooting of a patrolman, he observed the wounded officer's fellow patrolmen coming in a steady stream to donate blood.

Moved by the outpouring of affection for the officer, Mr. Robinson took off his coat and told a nurse, "Well, it's past my deadline now, anyhow. As long as I'm here, I may as well give some blood, too."

Thirty pints of blood, including Mr. Robinson's, was collected within two hours.

Mr. Robinson had lived in North Baltimore's Tuscany-Canterbury section until moving to Wells in 1982, the year he retired.

He was an auto buff who had at one time or another owned one of the first Volkswagen Beetles, a Lincoln and a Porsche coupe.

Mr. Robinson never lost his sense of adventure. "He was in his 70s when he went power gliding off a cliff in Maine," Mr. McCardell said.

He was a former communicant of SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore.

Plans for services were incomplete yesterday.

He is survived by his wife.

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