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2017 Hall of Fame Inductee
Wilbert D. "Wil" Robinson - Posthumous Inductee

Wilbert D. "Wil" Robinson - Posthumous Inductee Wilbert D. "Wil" Robinson was an American rodeo cowboy, a United States Marine, a photographer, a historian/storyteller and a creator of educational games. Born the youngest of nine children in Topeka, Kansas, in 1946, to Luther and Charlene (Grant) Robinson, Wil's father, grandfather and great grandfather had an immense influence on young Wil. He was raised by his uncle King Frey and aunt Regina Frey after losing both parents at a very young age. The men of the Robinson family had all broke draft horses to drive as a team and that undoubtedly ignited his love of horses, the cowboy way and the question of "How come I never see any black cowboys?" A question to remain within him for years to come.

After graduating from Topeka High School in Topeka, Kansas, Wil attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, before joining the United States Marines Corps. Robinson witnessed how his older brothers served their country and soon followed in their footsteps in choosing the Marine Corps and adapting to their principles of discipline and values. Robinson discovered his talents in photography, thus resulting in the Marine Corps Photography Training in Okinawa and service in combat in South Vietnam with the 3rd Marine Division with the rank of E5 Sergeant. During one of the battles, Wil performed the double duty of engaging in a fire fight with the enemy and snatching up his military issued camera between rounds at every available opportunity. An enemy round struck him beneath his helmet resulting in a wound over his left eye. Wil recalls his eye hanging from the socket until a corpsman arrived to secure his head in bandages, threw him into a helicopter and evacuated him to a hospital under a heavy ground assault. Grateful to the pilot, who also served as a flight surgeon, Wil survived the flight and retained his left eye. Robinson literally learned his photography craft while being tested under fire, in that his knowledge was acquired by placing himself in harm's way while standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow fighting Marines and serving his country from June 1965 through June 1978. On March 15, 1969, Wilbert D. Robinson married his wife, Brenda, of Kansas City, Missouri. Wil desired to stay in the Marine Corps, but due to the exposure of Agent Orange, he was sent state side after receiving the following honors: The Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Two Purple Heart Citations1968, The Republic of Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation, Meritorious Unit Citation Medal, Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, Marine Rifle Expert Badge, Marine Pistol Expert Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Wound Medal, 3rd Marine Division and Republic of Vietnam. Wil Robinson continued taking photographs for the Marine Corps and he developed the nationally recognized logo,"Marines, Looking for a Few Good Men".

Wil's expertise in photography led him to the Kansas City Star newspaper and he established a career in photo journalism for ten years. Robinson's love of horses and admiration for the cowboy morals and western livelihood never left him. In 1979, as Wil's grandfather's teachings beckoned within him, Wil visited the Benjamin Stables and Ranch in Kansas City, Missouri. Robinson was bitten and infected by the sport of rodeo when meeting Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) saddlebronc contestant, E. Jace Horne at the annual Kansas City Jaycee Rodeo and soon began competing in the rodeo bareback riding competition. As WiI's interest began to peak, Wil and Brenda soon settled in Cass County, Missouri, to own and operate their dream of raising quarter horses for their newly named ĚChar-Lu Ranch" near Harrisonville, Missouri. Robinson's enthusiasm in rodeo bareback riding competition grew to the point he joined the PRCA to further his rodeo experiences while traveling the Great Lakes Circuits and the Prairie Circuit for fifteen years. Known affectionately by his wife, Brenda as "Rob", Wil's dedication to cinch up and hunker down on a bronc was rewarded in a few "Hard Luck Cowboy" awards for this determination to develop his bareback riding skills. A "cowboy to the core" was used to describe Robinson by author Heather Berry in a March 2003 publication of Rural Missouri magazine that describes Robinson's bareback riding experience in an interview as like "jumping out of a ten-story window with a 2,000-pound suitcase in your hand".

In 1996 Robinson created Black West Presentation, Inc., a non-profit corporation to promote the cultural awareness and sensitivity of all people. Wil felt his mission was to enhance the knowledge and history that African Americans played in helping to settle the American Frontier and Pioneer West. Out of the Black West Presentation came the creation of the Cowboys of Color Ride Again storytelling performances at the Coterie Theater in Kansas City, Missouri, as Robinson portrayed notable African American historical western figures in depicting their lives and history. His one-man storytelling performances has been at Branson, Missouri, Silver Dollar City, and performed across the United States as part of the Great American Wild West Show. His stage presence and monologues were carefully balanced and crafted with his CEO responsibilities of his Black West Productions, Inc., and historical authenticity that entertained families, children and teens. The entertainment critics and the viewing public's positive feedback of his performances energized his imagination to expand his creativity causing Wil and Brenda to create and develop the "Cowboys of Color Educational History Game". Wil Robinson had many accomplishments in his life such as owner of Brookwood Photography, Topeka Kansas, Photo Manager, Photo Lab Franchise, The Kansas City Star Newspaper, Contract Specialist, United States Army Corps of Engineers, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bareback riding contestant, a cowboy model, an artist of drawings, paintings and wood carvings, historian and storytelling, live theater, actor of the Cowboys of Color Ride Again presentations, CEO of Black West Presentations, Inc. and creator and developer of Cowboys of Color Educational History Games. He retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1997. Robinson died August 18, 2011, with his beloved wife, Brenda and stepsons, Don and Byron by his side at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Services were attended by United State Marine Corps veterans, The Simpson-Hoggatt Detachment of The Marine Corps League, area ranchers, PRCA rodeo cowboys, rodeo stock contractors, and 2007 National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame inductee, Rex Purefoy to express their final farewells, condolences and respect to the Robinson family and to one of the really few good men.

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