Clarence A. Robinson Jr., a distinguished Marine Corps combat veteran and former Faircount Media Group and Defense Media Network contributor, passed away in his Vienna, Virginia, home on May 27 after a long battle with congestive heart failure. He was 87.
Armed with a high IQ and boundless energy, he was something of a modern-day Renaissance figure. Robinson ran newspapers and magazines and also worked in broadcast journalism. He was a talented equestrian, boxer, photographer and writer who loved to play golf and vacation with his family in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
As a journalist tracking down a great story, he was just as fearless as he had been in combat. After retiring from the Marine Corps with the rank of captain in the early 1970s, Robinson joined Aviation Week & Space Technology, becoming the esteemed publication’s senior military editor. It was in that role that he broke dozens of major stories regarding military technology advances, arms treaty violations by the former Soviet Union and huge weaponry breakthroughs made under President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as “Star Wars.”
He was lauded with several prestigious awards, including the 1983 Overseas Press Club Award for his coverage of the Iran-Iraq war. He worked at Aviation Week & Space Technology for 12 years, ending in 1984. Robinson later served as editor in chief of Fairfax-based SIGNAL Magazine, retiring from there in 1998. He was twice named by Washingtonian magazine as among the top 50 journalists covering news in the nation’s capital. He also appeared as a military technology and strategic expert on the popular TV shows 60 Minutes and Nightline.
Friends and relatives said he had a quick wit and a great sense of humor until the day he died. One of his favorite quips was, “other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”
“Our magazine team frequently compared him to Lou Grant from the Mary Tyler Moore show,” recalled Beverly Cooper, who worked for Robinson for several years. “A loud, opinionated and occasionally fussy person on the outside, he was an incredibly kind person at the core.”
Robinson began his long and storied career after leaving college in his freshman year in the early 1950s when his Marine reserve unit was called up for duty. He saw intense action in South Korea, where he was quickly promoted to sergeant and received several medals and commendations.
Following that, he embarked on a journey that saw him filling the dual and unusual roles as a journalist and soldier. A former reporter for the Kansas City Star, he held Marine Corps public affairs, intelligence and journalism duties interspersed with combat assignments.
In the 1960s, Robinson served two tours of Vietnam. For his bravery there, he earned the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with Silver Star and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Gold.
Those were among more than 30 medals or commendations he received in a military career that spanned more than 20 years. Robinson also was awarded two Bronze Stars with combat Vs as well as two Purple Hearts, with the latter awarded to those who have been wounded in battle.
Widely heralded for his incisive reporting and editing skills, Robinson later served as editor in chief of Fairfax-based SIGNAL Magazine, retiring from there in 1998. Following that, he wrote about military technology and strategic affairs for many Faircount publications and the Defense Media Network.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Doris Robinson; three sons; William, a real estate executive; Mitch, a technology executive; and Michael, a technology financial editor; as well as four granddaughters; Chelsea, Sarah, Jordan and Kendall; and a grandson, Will.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 am on June 7 at the Vienna Presbyterian Church, located at 124 Park Street NE, Vienna, Virginia.