B.W. Robinson, long-time Senate doorman, dies
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B.W. Robinson, long-time Senate doorman, dies

Date: April 15, 2010
By: Brian Krebs
State Capitol Bureau
Links: Freeman Morturary obit

JEFFERSON CITY - His given name was Buford Wayne Robinson, but everyone at the Capitol knew him simply as B.W.

Robinson, a Senate doorkeeper since the early 1980s and one of the state's oldest employees on record, died Tuesday evening. He was 93.

Before coming to the capitol, Robinson had dedicated his life to education. He graduated from Kirksville State Teachers College with a degree in education. At the University of Missouri, he received his M.A. and completed other graduate work.

Robinson's first teaching job was at a one room school house in Mill Creek, near his hometown of Hannibal. After being principal for ten years, Robinson became superintendent for Eldon Public Schools and then Rolla Public Schools. For nearly 20 years, Robinson worked at the Missouri Department of Education as an Assistant Commissioner of Education and Director of Vocational Education. 

Following his retirement in 1982, B.W. came to the state Capitol to be a doorkeeper.

The Senate chamber looked quite different back when Robinson arrived, Bill Smith, Senate Sergeant of Arms, said. The current Bingham Gallery and Pershing Gallery were nonexistent. Instead, Smith said, there was just a hallway leading out of the chamber.

"So B.W. would say he was hired specifically to keep the lobbyists from peeking in the doors on the Pershing Gallery side," Smith said. 

Robinson and Smith became friends during their time as doorkeepers.

Following a fall that left Robinson with a separated shoulder, his family worried about him driving. Smith and another doorman took it upon themselves to drive Robinson to and from the Capitol in order for him to work. 

His fellow doormen agreed that Robinson loved his job and interacting with everyone he saw.

"Oh, he loved it here," Bingham Gallery doorman Bill Wyrick said. "He always said he didn't want to go home and just sit there."

According to fellow doormen, Robinson's time in the capitol was spent making 'friends.' If you weren't a friend of Robinson's, you were a 'babe.' 

"He would always call the men 'friend,' and he'd always refer to the women as 'babe,'" Smith said. "We used to tease him because we took the sexual harassment test, of course, and we said, 'B.W., you can only do this here in the Senate because people know you.' "

"B.W. dearly loved people, and he had to be around people," Smith said. "He would speak to everyone even though he didn't know their name." 

Robinson loved working at the Capitol and didn't want to leave, Smith said.

On one of his last days at the capitol, Smith and Robinson were heading down to a committee meeting. As they waited for an elevator, Robinson, looking straight ahead, spoke to Smith: "He said, 'I don't it want to end this way.' And tears would came to his eyes, and he said these have been the happiest years of his life.'"
Even at the hospital on the day he died, Robinson told Smith, 'Bill, I can't be at work tomorrow, but I'm going to be there next week.' "
Robinson was well-liked within the chamber as well.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau said he will miss Robinson's way of smoothing chamber drama with his warm words and funny remarks.
"B.W. is a guy that had a thirst of life and brought that energy into a Senate chamber that at times can be very heated, can be very long days," Crowell said. "He was just that guy that--Republican, Democrat; urban, rural; pro-life, pro choice--it didn't matter where the divides were. He could kinda take the tension off." 

Outside of the state Capitol, Robinson was an active member of his church and local community. He was an elder and Sunday school teacher at the First Christian Church in Jefferson City, a member of the Host Lions Club, and, during his term on the Board of Directors, even survived a plane crash in South Africa.

Countless other activities throughout his adult and senior life led Robinson to become a recipient for the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce's "Outstanding Citizen" award and an honorary doctorate from the University of Missouri. Many in the field consider Robinson the father of Missouri vocational education.

Robinson's leaves behind one daughter, Mary V. "Vicky" Helsabeck and her husband Bob of Absecon, New Jersey; one son, John D. Robinson and his wife Cheryl or Columbia; five grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren. His parents, Edward G. and Mary Ellen Dwyer Robinson; his wife, Erma Lee Drake; and his daughter, Susan Hope Robinson; preceded him in death. 

Robinson had asked Smith, Wyrick and the rest of the doormen be pallbearers for his funeral. Rev. G. Dale Norfolk will officiate the service at 10:00 am on Saturday at First Christian Church in Jefferson City.