ANDERSON – You’ll find Dr. Thomas J. Robinson in his office every morning, where he starts off with The Herald Bulletin on his desk. Although he ran track back in the day, today he gets a little oxygen assist for chronic bronchitis that gets him through his busy days. The 80-year old preacher oversees the flock at the non-denominational Mt. Pilgrim Church in Anderson, a responsibility he’s carried for 38 years.
“I’ve been a voice for the poor – the least, the last and the lost,” said Robinson. “It is a real challenge.”
About 150 people come to Mt. Pilgrim each Sunday, a diverse congregation that fits with Robinson’s heart to break down the barriers of prejudice.
Robinson originally grew up in Chicago. He remembers his four white buddies with whom he used to go fishing up in Wisconsin.
One time, he and his friends were on their way back to Chicago and stopped to eat at a roadside diner. The waitress finally approached their table. Invoking a racial slur, she informed the group that the restaurant didn’t serve n----s.
Robinson’s buddy replied, “I don’t eat ‘em either. I just want a hamburger.” With that, the young men up and left.
Out of high school, Robinson snagged a scholarship from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and headed off to Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. With a bachelor’s degree in administration, he headed back to Chicago where he paid $50 to get a job washing cars. Eventually, however, Robinson put his education and talents to use, and wound up in business for himself, owning three gas stations. Life was good, until it all fell apart, and Robinson went broke.
“My wife was pregnant with our son,” said Robinson. “I was ready to commit suicide…. I was going to shoot myself.” He brought a .38 police special and brand new bullets. As he drove and came up to a stop sign, he prayed.