Robinson, Herb (1924-2003)

  • By David Wilma and Priscilla Long
  • Posted 11/14/2003
  • Essay 7572

Herbert F. "Herb" Robinson was an award-winning television and newspaper journalist in Seattle who served as lead editorial writer for The Seattle Times from 1977 to 1989, and as anchor, news director, and on-air host at KOMO Television in the pioneering years of 1953 to 1965.

Reporting From Seattle

Herbert Robinson was born in Seattle in 1924 and attended Queen Anne High School. At the University of Washington, Robinson wrote as campus correspondent for The Seattle Times. During World War II, he saw combat in Burma, leaving the service as a captain. After the war, he returned to the UW and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1949.

In 1954, television was a new medium on the scene and Robinson joined KOMO-TV to host a daily news program called "Deadline." The show received a Sylvania Television Award in 1956 for outstanding local and special-events program.

Robinson left television and returned to The Seattle Times where he wrote editorials. Over 20 years, he produced thousands of pieces. Columnist and colleague Eric Lacitis wrote, "In his many editorial columns for The Times on regional issues of the day -- from the ferry system and the state lottery to mass transit and fishing rights -- Mr. Robinson saw his role as that of presenting the facts, and then trusting readers."

Robinson also worked on the editorial board that screened political candidates. "He was also an extremely gracious person," said Terry Tang, deputy technology editor at The New York Times whom Mr. Robinson hired in 1989 as an editorial writer for The Seattle Times. "He sat through many, many political-candidate interviews, always calmly listening even when it was painfully clear the person running for office didn't know a fraction of what Herb knew about the issues at hand" (Lacitis).

Robinson was honored by the Municipal League in 1983 and the Washington State School Directors Association in 1973 for his contributions to understanding public policy issues. He pursued lifelong interests in jazz and he was a master at skiing.

From Fact to Fiction

After retiring in 1989, Robinson turned to writing novels. Rather than resting on his laurels -- numerous accolades and honors from the world of news and journalism -- in 1993 he enrolled in a fiction class at the University of Washington. He became a regular at writing-practice sessions held twice weekly at Tio's (renamed Louisa's) cafe on Eastlake Avenue in Seattle. He wrote there for 10 years.

For a decade before his death, he worked with Seattle writers and master teachers Jack Remick and Bob Ray, once commenting to another writer at Tio's on the importance of being able to continue to learn in general, and "from younger men" in particular (Long). Remick writes, "The novel that I liked best ... was 'Kennewick Man,' a comic novel about a low-life radio personality from Kennewick who drinks and sleeps his way to a top slot in the Seattle talk-show world. It was hilarious."

Robinson was in the process of seeking an agent and publishing venues for his fiction when he died on October 15, 2003. Remick adds: "There are, of course, a lot of American geniuses still in their notebooks. Herb joins that tribe where he will always be one of the great storytellers."


"Herb Robinson's Legacy of Decency and Fairness," The Seattle Times, October 17, 2003, p. B-6; Eric Lacitis, "Herb Robinson: Respected Newspaper, TV Journalist," The Seattle Times website accessed November 14, 2003 (; Jack Remick e-mail to Priscilla Long, November 14, 2003; Priscilla Long reminiscence.

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