- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2005

Philip Robbins, a journalist and prominent authority on the First Amendment and freedom of the press, died of pancreatic cancer Oct. 13 at his home in Elkton, Md. He was 74.

Mr. Robbins dedicated his life to journalism and the principles of a free press and the freedom of information. He spent the early years of his career as a reporter and editor at a number of daily newspapers and was a professor of journalism for 25 years. In his later years, he was also an ombudsman for international publications.

Mr. Robbins was instrumental in the establishment of a number of libel case-law precedents and in the drafting of freedom of information statutes at the municipal and state levels. He sat on numerous award committees for journalistic practice and received many awards, including the Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor, from the Society of Professional Journalists.

He earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1955 and began his career as a reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun, where he wrote the Port of Baltimore Handbook.

Mr. Robbins became the city editor at the Hopewell (Va.) Daily News in 1957 and stayed there until 1962. From 1962 to 1971, he was the assistant city editor, then metro news editor, at The Washington Evening Star.

“He had a knack of knowing what was important to people and what they would enjoy reading,” said Mary Lou Forbes, who worked with Mr. Robbins at the Washington Evening Star and is now commentary editor for The Washington Times. “Phil was always on the reader’s side.”

In 1971, Mr. Robbins became a journalism professor at George Washington University. He was chairman of the journalism department from 1973 through 1991.

“Professor Robbins conveyed a love of the news business,” said Steve Kamarow, a former student and former chief congressional correspondent for the Associated Press. “He grew up in it, lived it and made the reporting life seem a noble and rewarding direction.”

Mr. Robbins also served as president of the Washington professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists; chairman of the National Freedom of Information advisory group to Stars and Stripes newspapers; chairman of the Freedom of Information internships awarded by the Society for Professional Journalists; and on the national board of directors for the Student Press Law Center.

In 1993, he was awarded the university’s highest service award, the George Washington Award. After his retirement in 1995, he was awarded the designation of professor emeritus.

Mr. Robbins was born in 1931 in Hickman, Ky., the third child of Augustus Robbins Jr. and Marie Robbins. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) from Washington and Lee University in 1952 and was a sergeant major in the Army from 1952 to 1954, serving overseas in the Korean War.

He retired to Elkton, Md., and Carnelian Bay, Calif., from which he traveled, sailed and skied and enjoyed the company of family and friends.

Mr. Robbins is survived by his wife of 49 years, Patricia Robbins of Elkton, Md.; two daughters, Lynn Robbins of Arlington and Elizabeth Robbins of Annapolis; a son, Frederick Robbins of Palo Alto, Calif; and four grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at Elkton United Methodist Church, Elkton, Md., at 2 p.m. Oct. 29 and at Mount Olivet Methodist Church in Arlington at 2 p.m. Nov. 19. Memorial donations may be made to the Philip Robbins Memorial Fund at the International Center for Journalists, Attention: Nancy Frye, 1616 H Street NW, 3rd floor, Washington, D.C. 20006.



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