Dr. John Marshall Robinson, one of the first black doctors to start a medical practice in Little Rock, was also very active as a civic leader integral in founding the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association and the Little Rock branch of the NAACP.
Robinson and nine others will be honored for their efforts toward equality in healthcare during a public ceremony to be held in the River Market District in Little Rock Friday, October 24, 2014. Learn more at the 2014 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail Commemoration.
Robinson was born in Pickens, Mississippi, and graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1904. Before completing his studies at Meharry, he passed the Arkansas Board of Medical Examiners and practiced in Jackson County from 1901 to 1904. He continued his medical studies at Knoxville Medical College and in April 1905, co-founded the Pulaski County Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association with fellow physician Dr. John G. Thornton.
One year later, Robinson opened a medical practice at 7th and Main streets in Little Rock, where he conducted surgeries for black people in his office since there were no hospitals in the city that would serve them. In 1918, Robinson and three other black physicians founded Bush Memorial Hospital in Little Rock. That same year he became a founding member of the Little Rock branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Bush Memorial closed in 1929, and Robinson become the chief surgeon at Royal Circle of Friends Hospital. After four years at Royal Circle, he spent the next twenty years working as chief surgeon at Lena Jordan Hospital, an institution that provided healthcare services to the black community.
Robinson also continued his work as a civic leader. He founded the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA) in 1928 and served as president until 1952. He was very vocal in demanding the state allow equal black participation in the Arkansas Democratic Party. Blacks were routinely denied the right to vote in primary elections and Robinson sought to changed this practice. In 1930, he sued for the right to vote, specifically attacking the use of all-white primaries in Robinson v. Holman. Although the Arkansas Supreme Court did not rule in his favor, Robinson continued his work with the ANDA. Eventually blacks were able to vote in the 1944 primary elections due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Smith V. Allwright that stated that the use of all-white primary elections was unconstitutional.
Robinson passed away on July 19, 1970, in Little Rock.
Posted In: Honorees