Joseph Robinson was born in Hartsville, South Carolina on November 25, 1927. He attended public schools in Georgetown, SC and graduated from Howard High School. He chose to attend Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture.Arriving in Atlanta, he found that employment in his chosen field was denied to African-Americans and chose to teach in the Atlanta Public School System for 15 years. He was the first to teach descriptive geometry in the school system. More than a teacher, he inspired his students, many of whom went on to become architects, engineers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. He then established one of the first of three African-American owned architectural practices in Georgia. In 1995 he became the first African-American in Georgia to be elevated to Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects. Mr. Robinson used architecture to reshape changing communities with compassion during a time of segregation, designing over 200 private homes with exceptional recreational facilities so that people unable to use public spaces could socialize, entertain and host political gatherings in the privacy of their own homes. As a mentor to scores of African-American architects through his practice, Mr. Robinson understood the need to enhance the profession for future generations and was a charter member of the National Organization of Minority Architects. As a Vice President and Director of the Southern Region he was active in two of NOMA’s task forces: Government and Education. Mr. Robinson’s concern for educating others to the contributions of African-Americans in the building of this country, led him to become a major player in bringing the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic District into reality. He provided preservation design for the King Birth Home, the home next door, which became an office of the King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, Ebeneezer Baptist Church, the King Community Center, and the MLK Natatorium. He also provided restoration and renovation design for other buildings that were important to the district such as the Oddfellows Building, Big Bethel AME Church and most recently the he provided design services for Renaissance Walk @ Sweet Auburn which included the renovation of the historic Casino and 4B9 Buildings. Mr. Robinson forged two of the first major black and white joint ventures for significant projects in Atlanta: Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, Concourses C & D, the shell for the Airport MARTA Station, and the Ashby Street MARTA Station. In addition, Mr. Robinson was one of the first of two minority members of the Georgia World Congress Center’s Board of Governors where he served as Secretary. Contributing nine years of service, he played a pivotal role, increasing Georgia’s tourism industry through expansion of the Georgia World Congress Center and development of the Georgia Dome. Mr. Robinson has been honored by nearly 40 personal awards for professional and civic contributions, two of them from the Atlanta Business League in 1980 for Outstanding Professional Leadership in A/E Services, and in 1999 he received the Trailblazer Award for his contributions to business leadership over a span of 30 years. In 1995 Mr. Robinson was the first African American to be inducted into AIA fellowship from Georgia.
On November 8, 2003, Mr. Robinson celebrated the grand opening of the C. B. King U. S. Federal Courthouse in Albany, Georgia which may be the first Federal Courthouses to be designed by an African American Architect.
Against great odds, J. W. Robinson has exemplified determination and a pioneering spirit; a spirit that has led him to become an empowering influence on future generations. Through his commitment and his actions, he has shown those who aspire to greater challenges, how to strengthen, organize and blend those characteristics that make communities better parts of an imperfect whole — a nation founded on freedom! J.W. Robinson in The New Georgia Encyclopedia