A man of prominence and wealth, yet unspoiled by his position and prosperity; a man whose life was filled with kindly thoughts and generous deeds; a man of sterling integrity, who typified in his everyday life the highest type of Christian character, was James Franklin Robinson, the subject of this sketch.
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He was born in Rock Island County February 27, 1849, and died May 23, 1902, at his home in the city of Rock Island. He was the son of those well known Rock Island County pioneers, a sketch of whose lives is written elsewhere in this book, Captain and Mrs. Thomas J. Robinson.
As a boy, Frank Robinson, as he was known throughout his life in Rock Island, was of a thoughtful and studious bent of mind, and of a deeply religious nature. Unlike many other sons of wealthy parents, he had no inclination toward frivolity and dissipation. His early education was received in the public schools and later he entered an academy and prepared himself for entrance to Northwestern University, where he later graduated in the classical course.
Upon the completion of his collegiate studies Mr. Robinson returned home and entered the bank which his father had established, holding the responsible position of cashier, a position which he held to the date of his father’s death, April 12, 1899-a period of twenty-five years. Upon the death of Captain Robinson, his son succeeded him as President of the bank, and was also made President of the Central Trust and Savings Bank of Rock Island, closely allied to the Rock Island National Bank. Mr. Robinson was a tireless and indefatigable worker. He gave the most profound attention to every duty, bringing to each task the utmost precision and accuracy.
On October 29., 1879, occurred the marriage of Mr. Robinson and Miss Mary Roades, a young lady of Pekin, Illinois. Of this marriage two daughters were born, both of whom died in infancy. Both Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were members of the Methodist Church, the church with which Mr. Robinson’s father and mother had been affiliated throughout their lives, and in fact which they were instrumental in establishing in Rock Island. Mr. Robinson and his accomplished wife lived unostentatious lives. Their generosity was not confined to public benefactions, but in many instances their presence in the sick room of someone less fortunate than themselves, their active assistance in the relief of suffering and want, has been spoken of by others, although they themselves never alluded to these incidents. Mr. Robinson was a man of fine appreciation; of cultivated literary tastes, a lover of home and of home life. Mrs. Robinson is a singularly accomplished woman, a musician of great talent. Their married life was ideal. Each was a most fitting companion for the other. Their tastes were similar, and their ample fortune enabled them to enjoy the best in travel, music, literature and art.
In addition to the many secret benefactions of Mr. Robinson during his lifetime, he was generous in his aid to educational institutions. To the American University at Washington, D. C., he gave $25,000; to Denver University, Denver, Colo., $10,000; to Augustana College of this city, $5,000; and to McKendree College, Lebanon, Ill., $5,000.
The real magnanimity of the man is fully shown by the provisions of his will, an instrument disposing of his entire fortune of several hundred thousand dollars, and distributing it amongst church and educational institutions. This will was made after the fullest conference with his wife, who gave its every provision her heartiest approval, and who has not only cheerfully and devotedly given her best energies toward carrying out its provisions, but who has actually increased and added to the fund to be distributed. By the provisions of this will his wife, during her lifetime, is to enjoy the income from the entire fortune and afterward the following objects are named as beneficiaries:
The family homestead, a magnificent estate occupying an entire block in the best residence district in Rock Island, is to be dedicated to the uses of a Deaconess Home and Orphanage, to be held in trust by the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Rock Island.
Mr. Robinson always felt the most lively interest in the growth and welfare of religious and educational institutions. During his lifetime he was a liberal contributor to these institutions which he felt were so essential in the progress and development of Christian civilization, and at his death he left practically his entire fortune to their furtherance and up building.
In a former paragraph the fact of Mr. Robinson’s gift of $5,000 to McKendree College was mentioned. This gift has recently been supplemented by Mrs. Robinson, who from her own income, has given another $5,000 to the same college, thus enabling that institution to close an offer whereby it secured a permanent endowment fund of $100,000.
Mr. Robinson’s last illness was a lingering one, which baffled medical skill. His death brought to an untimely close a full and active life, that was proving a blessing to humanity. Throughout the city there were many, many expressions of grief, and of personal loss to those who had known him, and it was the general sentiment that a good man had gone to his reward.