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A weekend of remembrance, legacy building at Grambling

By Nick Deriso
The Deriso Report
May 4, 2009

The just-concluded weekend included a signature series of milestones and triumphs for the family of Eddie Robinson, and for Grambling State.

On Friday morning, what might have been a routine installation of commission officers for the quickly progressing Eddie G. Robinson Museum was instead highlighted by a game-changing $100,000 donation in the name of the former Grambling football coach’s first Pro Football Hall of Famer, Willie Davis. A day later, in a boisterous celebration at the home of his son, Eddie Robinson’s widow Doris marked her 90th birthday with a merry group of family, friends and a few other invited guests.

The hope, of course, is that the Davis corporate gift is the first pebble in an eventual avalanche of public support to bolster funds already in place from the state of Louisiana to establish this needed tribute to one of America’s lasting legends. Robinson was more than a football coach; he was Grambling’s most important ambassador and a key mentor to thousands of young people — on the gridiron, and off.

I thought Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, whose office will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Robinson Museum, made an important point at the announcement event — held across the street from the proposed site, the former women’s gymnasium on the Grambling campus: “This is a unique opportunity for us to meld academics and athletics. That makes it unlike any museum in our system.”

Among those also in attendance on Friday were Grambling school president Horace Judson, athletics director Lin Dawson, football coach Rod Broadway, and former assistant coach Doug Porter — each of whom are museum commission members — as well as former State Sen. Randy Ewing and State Rep. Rick Gallot, co-sponsors of the original bill calling for this museum.

A packet of information on the museum’s proposed exhibit space and programming, titled “Honoring The Legend; Continuing The Legacy,” was handed out to each commission member to take with them on fundraising trips.



“This is only Phase I,” Judson said of the on-going renovation efforts at the gym. “I say to you this morning: Let’s keep pushing.”

Mrs. Doris, who has weathered a few health problems over the last year, didn’t attend the Friday event for the Robinson Museum. When she strolled into the crowded living area for her party the next afternoon in a bright yellow outfit, the assembled group burst into spontaneous applause.

Family friend Wilbert Ellis, the former Grambling baseball coach and athletic administrator, led the prayer — then regally introduced Mrs. Doris as “the First Lady of Football.”

Davis, who went on to a successful business career after winning 5 NFL title with the Green Bay Packers, participated by teleconference in the Friday announcement of the Robinson Museum donation — made in his name by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who serves on a number of corporate boards with Davis. “He was like a father to me,” said an emotional Davis, who played on Robinson’s undefeated 1955 squad at Grambling. “I miss him.”

Weekends like this one — filled with reminescing and rejoicing, but also memorable legacy-building efforts — probably make that journey a bit easier for the loved ones left behind.

 

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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