William T. “Bill” Robinson III's Tribute Page

A Collection of Shared Memories

May 16, 2017

Bill Robinson memoir

​Bill Robinson's passing initiated an enormous response from those whose lives he touched. Below is a collection of some of these shared memories.

George Yund, Chief Executive Officer, Frost Brown Todd

Bill’s impact in the region and his extensive leadership in our profession have been most admirable. His optimism and determination were infectious and will be greatly missed by all. We have lost not only an exceptionally creative and dedicated lawyer, but also a genuine friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joan, Bill’s wife of almost 48 years, and the rest of his family,

John R. Crockett III, Chairman, Frost Brown Todd

Bill was among the most committed and accomplished people in our profession. It has been an honor to be his partner, and a privilege to be his friend.

Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate Majority Leader (R-KY)

I was saddened to hear of the passing of my dear friend, William T. “Bill” Robinson III, who was a prominent member of the Kentucky legal community for more than four decades. Bill was a champion for the judiciary and served in numerous rolls in the American Bar Association, including as its 135th President. Known for his warmth and positivity, he left behind many who were touched by his kindness. Elaine and I send our condolences to his wife, Joan, his friends, and his family.

Judy Clabes, Editor and Publisher, NKyTribune

Bill was one of a kind -- the best kind. He was a dear, valued friend and I am enriched by having known him and having the privilege to work with him on so many community-good projects over a very long period of time. He was a doer -- and he knew how to make things happen. He cared deeply about the community and about people. We loved his values and his compassion and his commitment and his energy. We are privileged that we could could count him a friend. Our love to Joan and his family.

John E. Pepper, Retired CEO and Chairman, Procter & Gamble

We have lost one of the great men and leaders I have ever known. Yet, "lost" is not quite the right word. For his influence will go on and on through the values and positive approach to life which he nurtured in all whose lives he touched. I never met Bill without being lifted by the appreciation of his unbounded commitment to help others and make any situation, no matter how challenged, better.

Rodney D. Bell, CUCM, CMC, SCWS, USNR, Retired

Please allow me to add my thoughts and condolences. In time of dire need and after I had retained an attorney in Cincinnati, I reached out to Bill. He immediately responded back to me and my labor law attorney, even while he was on vacation. Needless to say, I was impressed with his dedication and sincere friendship and commitment; a rare commodity these days. I also wanted to include Bill's comment as quoted by Tobias the attorney who I retained "I want you to provide excellent service for Rod and immediately contact me if you need help". After the call, Tobias responded positively to me "who in the hell are you". It was obviously, Bill's reputation and his comments set the course and direction. For that, I am indebted to Bill. I'll never forget this... God Bless you.

Daniel Rajaiah, ED, Indian American Chamber of Commerce of Cincinnati

Bill was the best. The nicest man and mentor I've ever had. He'd ALWAYS pick up the phone, respond to emails, and provide his insight and advice on how to solve problems. He enjoyed helping others more than anything. When I was a recent college graduate, Bill would take me to breakfast (6 AM) or lunch -- whenever he could fit it -- just to hear my story and see how he could be of help. He obliviously had way more important things to do, but he never showed it and made you feel like the only person in the room. An incredible leader all of us should strive to live and work like. The cheerfulness in the way he handled his sickness is a testament to the heart and soul he has. My life is better because of the short few years I was able to learn from Bill Robinson. Upward and onward! God bless Joan & FBT family. Dan.

James H. Beckett, CEO, Qualmet

Bill was truly a gift to all of us. His infectious smile and embracing tone will be missed. I was blessed to have been welcomed back to the FBT family in 2011 by Bill. My condolences to Bill's family, friends and colleagues. The Beckett family has you all in our prayers.

Deborah Tweddell, Assistant Director of IV-D Program, Kenton County Attorney's Office

Bill's devotion to Redwood School was unparalleled. He always referred to Redwood as a jewel in NKY's crown. Bill was a jewel in the crown too.

Mary C. McQueen, President, National Center for State Courts (NCSC)

Bill taught us to make the most of every day -- to value our friends, love our families and champion justice for all. He will always be part of us -- he will continue to encourage us to be better than we are.

Thomas More, President, David Armstrong:

Robinson was a good friend and probably the school’s most prominent graduate. He was the most wonderful man I’ve ever met. No matter what people say about how much he accomplished—he accomplished a thousand times that. He has mentored so many people that his spirit will live forever.

Dan Tobergte, CEO and President, Tri-ED

For 30 years he’s been consistently and ardently serving us. He had the original idea for Tri-Ed and he got it done. He certainly will be missed. He was a consummate professional, a mentor, a community cheerleader and a collaborator who was able to span both sides of the river.

Jonna Reeder, President and CEO, REDI Cincinnati

Bill Robinson was one of the most positive people I ever met. He was the kind of person who got things done. When others would walk away from a challenge, Bill always showed up to it. Words cannot express his impact on our region. He will truly be missed.

Linda Klein, President, American Bar Association (ABA)

Never too busy to help out a friend, Robinson was an indefatigable champion of the rule of law and an independent judiciary. He fought tirelessly to secure adequate court funding. During his term as ABA president, Robinson focused on the issue, pushing constantly for state courts to get the money they needed. By shining a bright public spotlight on the human consequences of underfunded courts—including delayed justice for individuals and long lines around courthouses—he is credited with convincing many state legislatures to address the issue.

Trey Grayson, President, Northern Kentucky Chamber

Bill Robinson was an outstanding leader of our community, a true Hall of Famer. The visionary behind the creation of Tri-ED, Bill was involved with nearly every important organization in Northern Kentucky at some point in his legendary career. In his profession, he reached national prominence by becoming the president of the American Bar Association. More importantly, he was a good friend and mentor to so many of us in the NKY Chamber family. While today may have marked the ending of Bill’s time with us on earth, his legacy of contribution to the success and vibrancy of Northern Kentucky will endure.

Kris Knochelmann, Kenton County Judge/Executive

It is a very sad day in Northern Kentucky with the passing of Bill Robinson. Any man could be proud having accomplished only a fraction of what Bill did in his life, and his legacy will live on forever. From business organizations like Tri-ED to organizations serving those most in need like Redwood, Bill never stopped giving to others. His character, professionalism, positive outlook, high energy, class, and faith are standards that we all can look up to for our entire lives. I know I will.

Candace McGraw, Chief Executive Officer, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) 

Bill was a passionate and committed advocate for our community and particularly CVG. His mark at the Airport and throughout our region is indelible. The Board and staff at the Airport will miss his optimism, drive and enthusiasm. Bill always looked upward and onward and we will continue along that path.

Kim D. Hogrefe, Chair-Elect, The National Judicial College

Bill was remarkably dedicated to The National Judicial College. Even when his illness prevented him from travelling to Board events, he actively participated by phone from healthcare facilities and from home. The faith and positive attitude with which he dealt with his disease will continue to inspire those of us who had the privilege to have known and worked with him.

Chad Schmucker, Former President, The National Judicial College

Bill was dedicated to promoting the rule of law, not just in our country but everywhere, and also to improving our courts and our system of justice. When Bill supported something he was ‘all in’ with time, talent and treasure.

Benes Aldana, President, The National Judicial College

Members of the search committee later told me that one of the reasons I was offered the job [as president of the NJC] was because my enthusiasm for the College was palpable. That was from seeing Bill across the table. His dedication was inspiring.

Palmer G. “Gene” Vance II, Member, Stoll Keenon Ogden, PLLC

It was incredibly difficult when you were with Bill to pick up a check. He would always say he would pay ‘because I’m older than you and I’ve been blessed with success. And I expect you to do the same when you’re with a lawyer who is younger than you.’ He was always thinking about how he could help you be better a lawyer, a better person. It was just part of his DNA.

Hon. John Vittone, (Ret.) Member, NJC Board of Trustees

One of my favorite memories of Bill is from the ABA annual meeting in London in 2000. It was a tremendous experience. Near the end of the trip, Bill, myself and a few others were invited to the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. We decided to go all out and buy morning coats, top hats—the whole nine yards. We went all dressed up and had a wonderful time. It was a beautiful day. Although we weren’t supposed to have a camera, somehow a picture was taken of Bill and me, arms on our shoulders, overlooking the garden. I remember laughing and smiling together thinking, ‘Who could believe we were here?’ Bill came from a working-class background. His father worked a night job as a janitor, and Bill was among the first in his family to go to college. I also came from the same background. My father was a coal miner. So I remember at the moment Bill and me saying, "Who would think we’d end up here 40 years ago?" That’ll always be a special memory of mine.

Henrietta F. Heywood, Legal Secretary to Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, Frost Brown Todd LLC

Bill Robinson enriched my life and that of others … personally, professionally and spiritually. Integrity was his compass. Bill’s enthusiasm for life and service to others was endless, and he tackled adversity with optimism. He was a figure of goodness and firmly believed one can do well by doing good. He defined professionalism as "never being out of date … it is timeless and essential to how one conducts oneself in the face of failure or success."

Matt Sweeney, Member, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC and past chair, NJC Board of Trustees

One of the things that was amazing about Bill was that with all the power and influence he had, he was a very cordial and cooperative sort of guy. He was never one to say, "I’ve got the answer, and this is what we’re going to do." He would say "This is what I think we should do, let’s hear what everybody else thinks and reach a consensus on how to move forward." He had a strong ego but was humble at the same time.

Mary McQueen, President, National Center for State Courts

Bill taught me that true courage is how you respond when no one is watching—without the expectation of recognition, honors or accolades. When Steve Zack passed the ABA presidential gavel to Bill Robinson, the state courts faced their greatest challenge from the purse not the pen. Bill tirelessly crossed the country speaking with editorial boards, state funders and lawyers about the very real impact insufficient funding of courts has on all of us. Bill’s honesty, integrity and genuine commitment to our legal system became a rallying cry to judges, lawyers and court professionals across the nation: “No courts, no justice, no freedom!” Thank you, Bill.

Mark Tratos, Founding shareholder, Greenberg Traurig Las Vegas office; member and past chair, NJC Board of Trustees; chair, Lewis & Clark Law School Board of Visitors

Bill Robinson, was a lawyer’s lawyer! His opponents respected him, the Courts trusted him, his clients relied on him, and his colleagues leaned on him for insight and guidance. As a seminary student he developed an insight about serving others that informed the remainder of his remarkably accomplished life. Servant leadership always puts the needs of others above one’s own. It brings a positive attitude and outlook to each of life’s journeys … anticipating the opportunity to improve the lives of those one encounters. Bill was the quintessential example of servant leadership and his presence in this world will be sorely missed by us all!

Sandra Yamate, CEO, the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession; member, NJC Board of Trustees

What I especially loved and respected about Bill Robinson was the way he handled disagreement. On the occasions when we didn’t see eye to eye, Bill didn’t play games or make it personal. He was honest and straightforward making his points but also open to truly listening to and considering opposing viewpoints. He understood that reasonable people could disagree but also set aside those differences for a greater good. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from him, work with him, and be inspired by his graciousness, generosity and good humor.

Rob Hudson, Member, Frost Brown Todd

I left the comfy confines of a larger office and firm to join the guy everybody was talking about, Bill Robinson. We had very little labor business in our office. We had to figure much of it out ourselves. What had I gotten myself into? After six exhausting months working at least sixty hours a week to try to make it happen, I shared my feelings of exhaustion. Bill told me, "this is what it takes to be a successful lawyer." Those words guided me over the 25 years we spent together. Bill was all about duty, loyalty, service, and loving people enough to speak hard truths. I'm just one of thousands of people who owe much of my success to Bill. If you did your part, and even if sometimes you didn't, he personally saw to it that you and your family succeeded. He asked for nothing in return. His legacy will stretch generations into our collective futures.

David C. Olson, Member, Frost Brow Todd LLC

Bill and I were both very active in the ABA and found great value in such endeavors. He encouraged me to remain active in the ABA as a means to grow professionally. Many of the people whose paths I crossed while working on matters for the ABA were well aware of Bill's leadership, and I benefited from the fact that he had plowed the path for me and many others involved with the ABA. He was the President of the ABA the year that I was the chair-elect of a Committee of the ABA. His leadership will be greatly missed but his accomplishments will not forgotten.

Thomas P. O'Brien III, Member, Frost Brown Todd

Bill was as passionate about his family, his community, his law firm, and his dedicated service as anyone. He had a zeal for life and a zeal for service at the local, state, national and even international level. Friendly and gregarious, and always positive, his smile and laugh were infectious. It was an honor and privilege to be his partner and friend. His motto "Upward and Onward" is especially fitting. Heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Joan and the entire Robinson family.

"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the soul of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."

Ryan Goellner, Associate, Frost Brown Todd

Bill made time to take me to lunch when I had only been with the firm for 8 months, made me feel appreciated, and gave me great advice. I'll never forget his kindness, compassion, and our conversation. You'll be missed, Bill.

Lorraine Keown, Cleaver Fulton Rankin, Belfast (N Ireland), Former President of EYBA and NIYSA

It was a huge honour to have known Bill for a number of years. He was a dear friend of the legal profession in Northern Ireland and travelled to the island on a number of occasions wherein I had the pleasure to share his company. Bill will be dearly missed by all here. Our love and prayers go to his wife Joan, family, friends and colleagues - particularly at FBT and the ABA.

Ashley L. Oliker, Managing Associate, Frost Brown Todd

It is incredibly rare to find such an accomplished individual who still maintained such a sense of humility, inclusiveness, and respect for all. Apart from being an extremely successful and well-respected attorney, most importantly, Bill was truly a wonderful person. I greatly admired his professionalism, dedication, and positive attitude at every turn. He will be greatly missed, but leaves behind an incredible legacy and example for all. My thoughts and prayers to his family.

Lisa Harnett, Frost Brown Todd

Bill Robinson made a huge impact on everyone he met, but, especially, those fortunate enough to work with him. He was not only an amazing attorney and a wonderful person, but his spirituality and upbeat personality made him even more special. I will always remember when the Florence Office of Frost Brown Todd was opening in 2007 and the position was available for an office manager. I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time when I applied for the position. After our initial introduction, he immediately got up from his desk and went to the back of his door where he retrieved pictures of his grandchildren from his suit jacket pocket to share with me. It was at that moment that I knew there was no other place I wanted to work. To have such a strong connection to family in addition to all his other wonderful qualities really spoke volumes to me about who he was. His warmth, values and integrity, as well as his always upbeat personality and attitude will always be remembered. My thoughts and prayers are with Joan and his family. Although he will be greatly missed, we will continue to go "Upward and Onward" as he would have wished.

Matt Blickensderfer, Member, Frost Brown Todd

Every conversation I ever had with Bill ended with him asking if he could do anything for me. I've heard the same from others. And while I never took Bill up on his offer, I've heard that when someone did, Bill sprung into action. Our thoughts are with you, Bill, as you move Upward and Onward. Condolences to Joan and the family.

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