“We are very proud of the museum, to have something that represents coach in such a positive manner,” said Legends co-founder James “Shack” Harris, who helped Grambling to four straight league championships under Robinson in the late 1960s.
Robinson Museum board chairman John Belton said a news conference with the Grambling Legends is set for 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26, at the facility, housed in the former women’s basketball gymnasium on Grambling’s campus.
“They never forgot what this man meant to them, and they want others to see that. This will be one of the centerpiece donations,” said Wilbert Ellis, chief local fundraiser for the museum.
The Legends group most recently held a gala Friday reception for the 2010 class of its Sports Hall of Fame at the Robinson Museum, bringing together a number of former players and co-workers who hadn’t yet visited the newly opened exhibit space.
“Their involvement is tribute to a man who meant so much to so many,” said Ellis, who crafted his own American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame career at Grambling. “I’m just thrilled to death about it. They still want the best for a man who deserved the best.”
A 1997 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, Robinson coached at Grambling from 1941-97 — along the way, passing college football legend Paul “Bear” Bryant for career victories with 408. Plans to build a museum in Robinson’s honor, however, had endured a series of setbacks before his death in 2007 at age 88. Within months, the University of Louisiana System agreed to house the museum on the Grambling campus, and the state Legislature approved funding.
“He led a life so extraordinary that it was worthy of a museum,” said Richard Lapchick, director of UCF’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and co-author of Robinson’s appropriately named autobiography, “Never Before, Never Again.”
“His achievements were unparalleled. When he retired,” Lapchick said, “he had more wins than any coach in the history of Division I football, had sent more of his players to the NFL than any other coach, had a team graduation rate of nearly 80 percent in a sport in which it hovered around 50 percent nationally, and never had a player get in trouble with the law until his last and 57th year as head coach of Grambling.”
The Eddie G. Robinson museum opened in February of this year, on what would have been Robinson’s 91st birthday.
“We want to be part of contributing to something that honors someone who was so important to us,” Harris said. “We think that it means a lot to the tradition. It’s a great tribute to Eddie Robinson, and done in a first-class way. That enhances Grambling, and shows future generations how he touched the lives of so many people.”