In memoriam: Stanley E. Robison (1954-2021)

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Stanley E. Robison died earlier this week. Stan possessed a wickedly sharp intellect, but wasn’t by any stretch a “know it all.” Fellow attorney Larry Wilder put it this way on Facebook.

Stan was a relentless advocate for his clients. It didn’t matter if it was the City Council, an accused citizen or an aggrieved spouse.. he would enter the room like a dragon breathing fire and hurling brimstone… and then.. when business was done.. he’d settle back and lovingly chat about his children, his wife or his Hoosiers. Stan struck a “dash” in every room. Tall, broad shouldered and baritone voice he would begin each encounter with a very purposeful recitation of your name.. and then proceed… it was always a welcome moment on any given day.

I met Stan some time around 1984. He was lawyering and I was clerking — at Scoreboard Liquors, that is. The long defunct package store was located across the street from the Federal Building and the City-County Building, guaranteeing a steady trade from attorneys, townie and visitor alike.

The atmosphere was like a barber shop. Stan was younger than the usual suspects who stopped in to shoot the breeze with Duck, the store manager, but he was older than me. Consequently during this period of a untutored Knobs native becoming acquainted with the life and times of Nawbany, at that specific juncture still very much a dirty and declining river town, Stan provided much valuable testimony, for which I’m grateful.

During all the years since those early Scoreboard conversations, I’d run into Stan here and there and our chats invariably were informative and cordial. We were not close friends, but we never became enemies, either, something I mention because Stan eventually became city attorney in New Albany (one of two, for a time) as well as a frequent donor to the perpetual Gahan campaign machine.

However Stan wasn’t arrogant and never seemed happy about it, which was enough for me. We do as we must, for our own reasons. My only regret is never having the opportunity to ask Stan what he thought about the mayor’s campaign treasurer daughter never failing to misspell “Robison” on the donor forms for five whole years.

Our mutual friend Randy Smith wrote at length about Stan at Twitter, and has given me permission to reprint here. The remaining text is his.

I’ve been too oblique or too opaque in talking about my friend Stan Robison, and I apologize. Indiana University basketball won one of its national titles when Stan was at IU. Stan, a genius, tutored several of those guys who played for Coach Bobby Knight. Just one great story. Share yours.

Unlike many of Stan’s friends, I didn’t grow up here. I’m about a year younger, but only met him after I opened my bookstore. But before that, I already knew we were kindred souls.

As most will know, Stanley was an excellent lawyer. Liked by some, loved by some. Respected. Feared by wrongdoers. Among those who feared him were members of the New Albany PD. He had beaten, even humiliated some of them in his capacity as a defense lawyer.

Though he served as a city employee or as counsel for city agencies or officeholders on multiple occasions, he maintained a private criminal law practice. In defense of his clients, he was incorruptible. And successful. Some cops and some politicians resented him.

To be sure, I wasn’t here. I was not a witness. Nor was I a confidant. But one day, trying to be a sponge for intelligence about my adopted new home, I heard about the arrest of a local lawyer.

It’s entirely possible that my friend Stan had indulged a bit in what he called “brown” liquor. I do know he grew to mistrust himself around that particular libation. But on this mid-aughts evening, returning to his office from who-knows-which hospitality station, Stanley chose to cross the street at a location other than a downtown corner.

Technically, he “jaywalked,” a term/crime that has a problematic etymology and sociology. No one, not even Stan, was endangered that evening, by this heinous crime.

Nonetheless, as a recent bete noire of the local constabulary, Stanley was nabbed by a resentful cop and arrested for an offense that, to this day, I’ve not heard of being enforced ONCE in New Albany. JAYWALKING!

Again, I was not at that time even acquainted with Stan. I knew nothing of his qualities. But it is clear that he knew what was going on. Once he was apprehended, the officer(s) [?] cuffed my friend and proceeded to frog-march him to the hoosegow a few blocks away.

No wallflower, my friend Stanley E. Robison began to chant, “Attica, Attica, Attica.” {see: Mr. Al Pacino in the film “Dog Day Afternoon”} I literally have no idea how I learned this part. There must have been witnesses to attest to it.

From that moment, I knew that I wanted to meet this man and to befriend, if not hire him.

Stan became my friend and I hope he thought of me the same. He also became my lawyer, though that was but a minor part of our relationship. I suspect he appreciated our friendship. I believe he trusted me. Why do I believe this?

Stanley, over the years, confided in me. He guided me in my efforts to have an impact on public policy. In doing so, he helped to make at least three of my initiatives successful.

I came to know his family and am particularly fond of his wife, Marge. Ann and I share in the family’s love and grief. Too soon. Too much.

Stan’s family will receive visitors at Naville Seabrook funeral home’s Market Street chapel on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, beginning at 1 p.m. and ending at 7 p.m. We will be there to honor him and to extend our love, sympathy, and support to Marge and all who loved and admired him.

I’m selfishly comforted that I, just a week or so before he passed, was able to let Stan know that I missed him and appreciated him. I was not so intimate to know how hard his struggles were. But I loved him.

For all of you who loved him too, Ann and I offer you our best wishes. We are all diminished by the passing of this significant man who contributed so much to his community and to each of us. Please share any “Stan Stories” with us.

Attica!

Here’s another story. Vicarious, but, I hope it’s a contribution to the memory.

Stanley was incredibly proud of his son, Daniel. Still living in Buffalo, by all accounts, Daniel was an academic All-Star, and chose to become a broadcast journalist. Public radio. I never had a son and barely knew Daniel, but when the young man had his 1st NPR brief. I was almost as proud of him as was his Dad.

[Weirdly, I’m proud of John Boyle in a similar way. I was a journalist once, too.]

Daniel and his dad flew to Washington, DC, once and found themselves adjacent to the great author John Grisham, who is also a lawyer.

Accordingly, Stan struck up a conversation with the author. By the time they landed, a friendship ensued and Grisham offered Stan and Daniel a ride that turned into celebrity access to Washington. I would LOVE to hear Stan tell that story again.

Daniel, by the way, is now Director of Institutional Communications at Daemen College in Amherst, NY. Apparently, he married a “Buffalo Gal.”

It’s A Wonderful Life.

Photo credit: Ed Needham

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