Lonal Robinson, community activist and newspaper publisher, was born on March 26, 1949, in Lima, Ohio, to Alex Robinson and Bessie (Gee) Robinson. He received his early education in the public schools of Lima. During the summer of 1968 he met his future wife, Dorris Ellis, who was a student at the University of Illinois at Champagne. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted into the United States Army and served until 1971. Upon an honorable discharge from the army, he joined Dorris at the University of Illinois where he studied political science and African-American studies. They married in 1972. The couple had four children.
Robinson and family moved from Illinois to Arkansas and then to Houston in 1982. A community activist in the previously-mentioned states, Robinson quickly became involved in the black community upon his arrival in the “Space City.” He organized basketball teams and baseball leagues at the Blue Triangle YWCA and Ryan Middle School. Additionally, he and his wife Dorris became owner and publisher of the Houston Sun, a black weekly newspaper they established in 1983. This newspaper was voted as the best newspaper in 1988 by the Association of Black Journalists. Shortly after the publication of the periodical, Robinson began to provide scholarships to aspiring journalists.
Robinson’s service to the community was manifested in many forms. In collaboration with the Houston Independent School District and the city of Houston, Robinson spearheaded the creation of a multipurpose sports field for children in the Third Ward, which later became known as the Third Ward Youth Sports Association. He was also involved in the Third Ward Redevelopment Council, Inc., a similar community project where he led an effort to renovate the baseball field. Following the successful baseball program, he organized a successful Houston Metropolitan Youth Sports Association that provided opportunities for boys and girls (ages ten to twelve) to learn sports, leadership, character-building, and good sportsmanship. The organization also allowed parents and community residents the opportunity to volunteer.
In 1990 he combined business acumen with administrative skills to establish a black-owned comedy club, the Comedy Place, and invited the likes of Chris Rock and D. L. Hughley. Shortly before his death, he supported the Friends of Emancipation Park's efforts to renovate the 140-year-old historic landmark.
Throughout his life, Robinson received many awards, including “Man of the Year” from the Houston League of Business and Professional Women, “Outstanding Achievement in the Media Field” from the YWCA of Houston, “Outstanding Leadership to the African American Community” from Jack Yates High School, and the Houston Black Chamber of Commerce’s Pinnacle Award. He was also active in the Boys-to-Men Summit and became a consultant to the Leadership Institute and Education and Technology Institute. Lonal Robinson died in Houston on March 17, 2012, after a four-month hospital stay and is buried in Houston National Cemetery.
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Houston Chronicle, March 21, 25, 2012. “Houston Sun’s Lonal Robinson, husband of former HABJ president, dies” (http://www.habj.org/event_details.php?db=7&level=album&id=0), accessed May 16, 2013.
Activism and Social Reform
Upper Gulf Coast
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Dorris Ellis Robinson,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 13, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
June 17, 2013
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 1, 2017
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: