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State Funds Robinson Museum Project For First Time

BY NICK DERISO AND MIKE HASTEN
THE NEWS STAR

The long-delayed Eddie Robinson Museum is, all of a sudden, on a roll.

Eight years after first being proposed, the project received quick approval on Thursday from the Bond Commission for state funding of $1.3 million.

"It took less than five minutes," said local museum fundraiser and Robinson family friend Wilbert Ellis. "They made a motion, and it was done."

Organizers sought the money for renovating exhibit space on campus and hiring an exhibit designer, said board-appointed museum board chairman John Belton.

"In 12 to 18 months, we will be able to see one of the greatest museums in the state of Louisiana," Belton said. "I'm looking forward to that day."

The commission voted unanimously to shift $300,000 from an administration project for repairs on state facilities to the museum project, transforming that allocation into available cash.

Another $1 million was allocated as a non-cash line of credit, which means museum officials can make agreements to begin the project — which the state budget will then fund.

State Treasurer John N. Kennedy, who chairs the Bond Commission, said: "We wanted to fast-track this. That's why we did it with lines of credit. They can move right along and get it done."

The Thursday funding came less than a month after Grambling State's oversight board approved transfer of the former women's gymnasium for exhibit space on the Grambling State campus where Robinson coached for 57 years.

At GSU from 1941-97, Robinson retired as the winningest football coach in college history with 408 wins — leading the Tigers to 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference titles over the years. He died on April 3 at age 88, sparking renewed interest across the nation in this project.

"We've had Coach with us that whole time," Ellis said. "I think he's working right along with us on this. I feel Coach's hand in all of it."

This museum was first proposed eight years ago — two years after Robinson's retirement at Grambling and several before the onset of the Alzheimer's-related symptoms that ultimately led to his death.

But these are the first state funds ever specifically earmarked for it.

"We are on our way," said an enthused Ellis, a former longtime GSU baseball coach and athletics administrator.

"This is the booster shot we needed! I'm tickled to death."

The museum will be a part of the Department of State Museums Program, administered by the secretary of state.

 

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The Eddie G. Robinson Museum is a landmark that officially recognizes the outstanding contributions to the state of Louisiana, the nation, the world and the game of football made by Coach Eddie G. Robinson.  - more