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James Thompson Robison
THE MOST enduring monument which can be erected to the memory of loved ones is not made of marble or
granite, for Time, alas! crumbles these away, and, precious as are the cherished memories in the hearts of
friends, within a few years these associations will be sleeping in the silent cemetery. Naught endures save the written record, the page glowing with the chronicles of the noble life and kindly deeds—these alone hand down to the generations of the future the history of the past, of those whose brave patriotism and undaunted hearts paved the way to posterity and civilization. One of the eminent business and professional men of a past generation of Cleveland, Ohio, whose name is deserving of perpetuation, was the late James Thompson Robison, a man of exceptional ability and culture.
Mr. Robison was born in Bedford, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, January 2, 1858. He was a son of John P. and Betsey (Dunham) Robison, a complete biographical record of whom appears in another part of this volume. He was a descendant of a sterling old Colonial family, members of which have been prominent in America for some two hundred years. His paternal ancestor, John Decker Robison, was an officer in both the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars, winning distinction in each; and in the maternal line our subject was a grandson of Hezekiah Dunham, founder of the city of Bedford, Ohio, where the Dunhams were prominent citizens for many years.
James T. Robison grew to manhood in Cleveland, to which city his parents removed when he was a boy, locating on the south side of Superior Street, the third house west of Erie Street. The residence of Edwin Cowles stood on the corner, and that of R. K. Winslow was next. When a lad our subject was a student at the famous Rockwell Street school, later entering the Devoe Military Academy at Suspension Bridge, New York, a preparatory school for West Point. After remaining there for some time he returned to Cleveland and was a student at the Brooks school, from which he was graduated, then entered Hiram College, where he was graduated in the literary course. For some time he had been reading law during spare moments, and in order to properly equip himself for a legal career he entered the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, from which he was graduated with high honors with the class of 1879. In order to obtain a practical knowledge of his chosen profession he worked for some time at clerical work in the office of the well-known law firm of Robison & White, of Cleveland, and he was for a short time engaged in similar work in the office of Judge Rufus P. Raney, a noted jurist of that period. In 1879, Mr. Robison was admitted to the bar both in Michigan and Ohio, and in the practice of his profession was successful from the first, soon enjoying a growing and lucrative clientage. In counsel he was inquisitive, exacting, and exhaustive, desirous always of ferreting out the truth and facts. As an advocate he was earnest, resolute, and persuasive,
seldom drawing upon his imagination, or provoking it to soar into vapory nothings; he had great power over juries, having had the true pathos of feeling, not the inane emotional verbosity which is so often mistaken for pathos. Although fast winning a place in the front ranks of the Cleveland bar, he finally decided that his true bent lay along industrial lines, and abandoned the practice of law. That he was not mistaken in the estimate of his innate powers is seen from the fact that he was very successful in all his undertakings in a business way, and had not death interposed when he was in his prime, he would no doubt have become one of the noted captains of industry of the great Buckeye commonwealth. He was a man of rare soundness of judgment, wise foresight and keen discernment, possessing much ability as a systematic organizer of important and legitimate undertakings. For several years he was associated with the large packing firm in Cleveland of which his father was the head, later establishing a manufacturing industry at Painsville, Ohio, under the firm name of the Robison Basket Company, which under his able management developed into the largest plant of its kind in the world—the manufacture of baskets by automatic machinery. He also engaged extensively in the production of veneers and various fine wood products. Whatever he sent out from his factories found a ready market over a wide territory owing to their superior quality and workmanship, for his watchwords were high-grade, prompt and honest service. He therefore soon had an enviable standing in the world of industry. Besides the above concerns he also had other important business interests, and became one of the financially strong men of the Forest City.
Mr. Robison was a man of a great diversity of talents and tastes, and, notwithstanding his vast business interests, he found time for public affairs, and was one of the leaders in the Republican party in his city and State. He served as secretary for Gen. James A. Garfield at Mentor during the great presidential campaign of 1880, and in his earlier career, while living at Willough- by, this State, he was recognized as one of the most influential members of the Republican party in Lake County, his advice and counsel being sought by all candidates on that ticket, and there as elsewhere he did much for the success of the party. Although well qualified for high public office and often solicited by his friends and admirers to accept suitable position of public servant he never cared to do so, preferring to devote his time to his business, his home, and the general welfare of his community. Although contributing freely of his time and means to benevolent and public interests he was always unassuming and avoided publicity, never seeking the plaudits of his fellow-men. He was liberal in his religious views, and did not affiliate with any special denomination, but was nevertheless a man of high character, strict integrity and kindness of heart, having been charitably inclined and a great friend of educational and benevolent movements.
Mr. Robison was married to Lillian Geraldine Warner, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, where her family have long been prominent and where she received a good education. She is descended from a long line of worthy and prominent ancestors on both sides. Mrs. Robison has traveled extensively, is a lady of refinement and high social standing.
The union of Mr. and Mrs. Robison was blessed by the birth of two children, Hortense B. and Warner S., both of whom have received excellent educational advantages and are most promising.
Personally, Mr. Robison was a man of imposing physique, evidently a born leader of men. He was a splendid example of a symmetrically developed physical and mental man. A lover of fine horses and the outdoors he found recreation in riding and driving, always keeping a number of good horses. By careful living and close contact with Mother Nature he retained his robust health and vigor until his untimely death, which occurred at Deland, Florida, March 11, 1905, when in the prime of life and usefulness. All that is mortal of him lies in one of the largest and choicest lots in beautiful Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland, of which his father was one of the principal founders and promoters, and for many years a director. An imposing family monument marks the spot. He will long be greatly missed and sincerely mourned by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, for he was a man among men, truly one of Nature's noblemen, transferred to a higher plane of action when life promised most.
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds