Wilton Robinson, a community leader who once stood alongside civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson during the 50-year anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, has died. He was 56.
Family members describe Robinson, who worked as a corrections officer, as a well-known and respected figure in Roosevelt who stood up for human rights.
When President Barack Obama was campaigning for his second term, Robinson went in a caravan to Philadelphia with many other Roosevelt residents to initiate a voter’s registration drive.
One person he persuaded was a 108-year-old African-American woman who had never voted.
“He let her know that her vote counted,” said Mary W. Robinson, Wilton’s 75-year-old mother. “And she registered and she voted.”
Mary Robinson moved to Long Island four years ago to take care of her ailing son, who died March 23 of colon cancer at Beach Terrace Care Center in Long Beach.
While president of the Roosevelt Public Library trustee board, he rented yet another bus to Washington, D.C., with several nearby residents to attend the Million Man March in 1995, family members said.
In 2013, he traveled to Birmingham for the 50th anniversary of the 16 Street Baptist Church where he, Jackson and others spoke during the church’s program.
Ku Klux Klan members bombed the church on Sept. 15, 1963, killing four young black girls and injuring at least 20 other people. The bombing played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement.
“I am proud of him; he did a lot,” his mother said.
Raised by his mother, Wilton founded a youth organization called Boys to Men, aimed at encouraging young males. On June 4, the organization paid tribute to him at Roosevelt Public Library.
“He wanted young boys to realize they could make a difference in the area,” his mother said.
Wilton Robinson also started a scholarship fund for criminal justice students at Nassau Community College.
Last month, the college gave a scholarship in his honor to a budding criminal justice student, family members said.
His sister, Belinda Rudder, 54, of Hallstead, Pennsylvania, recalls a funny holiday story between her and her sibling.
As children, they were warned never to play basketball in their home.
But that didn’t stop Wilton when his mother left to run errands hours before Thanksgiving dinner.
While playing, he broke his mother’s favorite vase. He sister managed to glue the vase back together.
Their mother hadn’t realized what happened until dinner started and the water leaked out.
The result: They each received a six-month punishment.
In addition to his mother and sister, Robinson is survived by another sister, Bernadette Robinson, 42, also of Hallstead.
A funeral was held April 6 at Antioch Baptist Church in Hempstead. He was buried at Pinelawn Memorial Park and Gardens Mausoleum in Farmingdale.