Bill Robinson is many things.
He's a graduate of Easley High School, Class of 1942.
He's a lawyer who was recognized for over 60 years of service to the South Carolina Bar Association.
He's a World War II veteran, who served as air mechanic in the US Army Air Corps, a ground crew chief on a B-29. He flew combat missions to Iwo Jima before Japan surrendered.
He's a member of the Easley Rotary Club with 60 years of perfect attendance.
He's a husband and a father.
Those are just a few of Robinson's accomplishments – and he was recently recognized for a lifetime of service to his community.
Sen. Larry Martin and Rep. Phil Owens presented Robinson with the Order of the Silver Crescent this afternoon, during a meeting of the Easley Rotary Club.
“The Order of the Silver Crescent was established by former Gov. Jim Hodges,” Martin said. “He established the order for community service, for superior contributions to one's community .. wide-ranging contributions to a given county or region of South Carolina.
It's the highest honor that the Governor of South Carolina can give for that type of recognition,” Martin continued.
Public education was and remains a passion for Robinson, who served as a trustee for the Pickens County School District from 1962-1971.
He brought the school district “into the modern age,” Martin said.
At that time, each school had elected trustees just to serve that school, he said.
“It was a school district in and of itself,” Martin said. “He served during a very important time, when all that consolidation happened, when everything was set in motion for the great school district we have today.”
Owens said he was honored to help recognize Robinson.
“The thing that impresses me about Bill is that he's a true Southern gentleman,” Owens said. “He's a man where you don't have to wonder where he stands on an issue – he's very glad to let you know that. At all times he's a stalwart for the community of Easley, in everything he does, in his charitable work, in his business work, in his relationships with all the people here.”
Owens read a letter from Gov. Nikki Haley, congratulating Robinson on his award and thanking him for his service.
“It's my pleasure to present to you the Order of the Silver Crescent for your lifelong devotion to the betterment of South Carolina,” Haley wrote. “Your entire life has been marked by a level of commitment and achievement that brings enormous credit to you and your community. Your extensive volunteerism with the Pickens County Library demonstrates your devotion to helping others and your activism in the area exemplifies your exceptional leadership skills.
“South Carolina is blessed to benefit from your generous public service and commitment to serving others,” Haley continued. “Thank you for upholding the highest ideals of service and leadership in everything you do.”
Robinson said that he was “thunderstruck” upon learning he was to receive the Order of the Silver Crescent.
He said that he's “the last of the old country lawyers.”
“There's not many of them left,” Robinson said.
He spoke of hanging his shingle out in 1950.
“A couple of whirls later, 62 years later, here I am,” Robinson said. “I practiced country law for forever.
“'Service Above Self' is an example of what I hope my life has been somewhat like. I have represented everybody.”
He thanked Martin and Owens, his parents and his family, particularly his wife Mary.
“None of them has ever served a day (in jail)” Robinson said, of his family. “Some of them have come close.”
That remark drew huge laughs from the crowd.
“I'm thankful that I've had the support of my family and the support of the community,” Robinson said. “We didn't often agree on things, but we always managed to make things work and that's what democracy is all about.”
Robinson spoke about public education and how sometimes the wrong things are emphasized.
He remembered a consultant telling he and his fellow board members that they had spent 20 seconds passing a $100,000 item and 20 minutes arguing about whether to buy a new or used pickup truck.
“We changed that somewhat,” Robinson said.
He said too often people – and the media – pay too attention to money saved or people or programs cut from school district budgets, and not enough to achievements within the school system.
“There's nothing that you've read in there that's been 'We have demanded better results from public schools and you're going to do it,'” Robinson said. “It's 'We're not going to give you enough money to operate like you want to but you still have to produce.'
“They're proud of the fact that we have cut spending and cut spending,” Robinson said. “We're not proud of the fact that we've raised the performance levels of students, locally, statewide and nationally.
“We know how to do it, it's just that nobody wants to open that door. It's the 800-lb gorilla in the room.”
Robinson said he's flown all over the world and came back to Pickens County because “I couldn't figure out any other place I'd rather be.”
He told his fellow Rotarians that he'll see them next week, same as always.
“I've got to keep my attendance up,” Robinson said.