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The Ghost of Frank J. Robinson

On Oct. 13, 1976, East Texas voting rights activist Frank J. Robinson was mortally wounded from a shotgun blast to his head.

When the police chief saw the body, he declared it looked like a murder — but days later he retracted his assessment.

After a public inquest, Robinson’s death was ruled a suicide. But a specter of doubt hangs over his death — so much so that even the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas questions the ruling.

Robinson had won victories to promote and preserve the power of the Black vote in East Texas, and some say that’s why he was killed.

In Texas Public Radio’s "The Ghost of Frank J. Robinson," reporter David Martin Davies investigates and finds new evidence about this mystery that haunts East Texas.

This podcast is made possible in part by Texas A&M San Antonio.

Latest Episodes
  • Frank’s widow Dorothy Redus Robinson recorded two oral histories where she spoke about her life, love and legacy. Dorothy talks about how racial injustice was so much a part of life in East Texas that she didn’t realize until she married Frank that it could be challenged and changed. Dorothy shares the history of her grandmother, who was enslaved and how she came to Texas. And she explains why Frank insisted that voting rights was critically important to make change.
  • To get to the truth of what happened to voting rights activist Frank J. Robinson, we go searching for the documents and records related to the investigation into his 1976 death and the public inquest. Time after time, those records are missing. But eventually a key Texas Rangers investigation report is uncovered and critical new information is revealed that sheds new light on this mystery.
  • Frank J. Robinson's widow Dorothy tells her story of learning about Frank's death and coming up to Palestine, Texas, to face questions. Police wanted to know if the shotgun found at the scene belonged to Frank. Dorothy points out the inconsistencies in the case that Frank died by his own hand.
  • Frank J. Robinson’s wife, Dorothy Robinson, remembers the moment she saw Frank’s ghost and learned the important message he brought from the grave. Also, Robinson’s courtroom ally Dave Richards, Gov. Ann Richards' former husband, explains how Robinson ended anti-Black gerrymandering and how the public inquest over Robinson’s death was a farce.
  • When the East Texas voting rights advocate died under mysterious circumstances in 1976, his death was seen as a murder. However, officials called it a suicide. Former Palestine resident James Hopkins explains what happened when he attended Robinson’s funeral. Also, we hear about the unusual honor for Robinson connecting him with The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
  • The iconic civil rights leader's 1976 death led to probes by the Texas attorney general, the FBI, and others. But all documents that might have proven he was murdered appeared to have vanished. In the Ghost of Frank J. Robinson podcast, reporter David Martin Davies investigates and finds new evidence about this mystery that haunts East Texas.