Former ABA president Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III dies



Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III


Former ABA president Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, an “indefatigable champion of the rule of law,” has died.

Robinson was an active member of the ABA for more than 35 years, according to a statement expressing sympathy by current ABA President Linda A. Klein.

He served as ABA president in 2011-12 and as ABA treasurer in 2005-08. He “will be missed by the entire ABA family and legal community,” Klein said.

Robinson was a member of the ABA Board of Governors for 10 years and a member of the ABA House of Delegates for more than 30. He was chair of the ABA Standing Committee of the American Judicial System at the time of his death.

Robinson died after a battle with lung cancer, according to an obituary in the Northern Kentucky Tribune. His wife, Joan, and other family members were by his side. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Robinson was member-in-charge of the Florence, Kentucky, office of Frost Brown Todd. He had “deep and proud roots in the state of Kentucky,” Klein said, noting he was involved in bar work and judicial education. He also envisioned and implemented a cooperative regional economic development effort known as Tri-ED.

According to the obituary, Robinson’s “dedication and service to the region earned him more distinctions and regard than can possibly be mentioned in full. Call him ‘Mr. Northern Kentucky’—and everyone will know the reference.”

Both the obituary and Klein referred to Robinson’s optimism and his trademark phrase, “Upward and onward.”

“Never too busy to help out a friend, Robinson was an indefatigable champion of the rule of law and an independent judiciary,” Klein said. “He fought tirelessly to secure adequate court funding‎. During his term as ABA president, Robinson focused on the issue, pushing constantly for state courts to get the money they needed. By shining a bright public spotlight on the human consequences of underfunded courts—including delayed justice for individuals and long lines around courthouses—he is credited with convincing many state legislatures to address the issue.”

Robinson graduated from Thomas More College and the University of Kentucky College of Law, where he is enshrined in its Alumni Hall of Fame, the obituary noted. He was scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate this weekend at Thomas More; a surrogate will take his place.

Thomas More President David Armstrong said Robinson was a good friend and probably the school’s most prominent graduate.

“Bill Robinson was the most wonderful man I’ve ever met,” Armstrong said in the obituary, “and no matter what people say about how much he accomplished—he accomplished a thousand times that. He has mentored so many people that his spirit will live forever.”

His wife wrote on her husband’s online CaringBridge journal, “If one would like to do a memorial in Bill’s name, his request is a donation to Redwood School, located at 71 Orphanage Road, Ft. Mitchell, KY 41017 ( This is a special charity to him and he has been involved in it for 50 years.”

Updated with additional information at 4:30 p.m.

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