Barbara Tramel Robinson Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Barbara Tramel Robinson was born July 16, 1927, in Abilene, Texas, to Lucille Cody and Byron Bert Tramel. As a child Barbara saw much of West Texas with her mother, a schoolteacher who traveled often for work during the Depression. A permanent public school teaching position brought the Tramel family to San Marcos, Texas, where Barbara attended high school, graduating in 1942 at the age of fifteen. After obtaining degrees in English, History, and Government at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Barbara moved to Austin, Texas in search of work. There she held a variety of odd jobs until 1953 when a friend, a fellow volunteer-thespian at the Austin Little Theatre, suggested she apply for a music librarian position at the KTBC-AM-TV station which broadcasted at that time from studios in the Driskell Hotel in downtown Austin. The move into radio was a pivotal one in Barbara's professional career.
KTBC, owned in the majority since 1943 by Mrs. Claudia T. (Lady Bird) Johnson, wife of then-senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, had just the year prior to Barbara's joining the staff become the first television station in Austin. Radio, however, was to be the medium of the majority of Barbara's work at the station. As the music librarian, her primary responsibility was to pull enough recordings to fill the various music segments, but Barbara's supervisors must have quickly recognized her potential for she was soon assisting in programming the music and interviewing musicians and composers that played in Austin, including Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Buddy Rich, and Gene Krupa, among other notables. Around the same time Barbara played voice roles in commercials and on Cactus Pryor radio shows, at times even playing male characters since she could make her voice low enough to convince a listening audience.
Barbara's role at the station was one of ever-increasing responsibility and visibility. After proving her interviewing and writing skills, she began writing "Tin Pan Alley," a daily music show during the 1950s. In the 1960s, after serving for about three years as a commercial copy writer, Barbara got her own show, a short but daily talk segment called "Random Thoughts" in which she had the freedom to expound on any subject of her choosing. This show may have been part of the KTBC television news show from 1963-65, as she worked with Neal Spelce, a well-known reporter during television's early days in Austin. In any case, at some point during the 1970s Barbara's career did take a turn towards news radio and television when she began covering city hall and making a name for herself as one of the first women in the region covering hard news, only the second woman reporter in the history of Austin radio. In addition to hosting a one-hour talk show featuring interviews with city, county, and state officials followed by a public call-in segment, Barbara also wrote and read hourly political news briefs.
Her interest in politics is perhaps what eventually led to her final career change. In addition to working on the campaigns of several local politicians, she was an Information Specialist in the Texas Department of Agriculture under Jim Hightower and Rick Perry until her retirement at the age of sixty-seven.
Through her activities in Austin's music and theater, Barbara met LaFalco 'Corkey' Robinson, a musician and a leader of a local orchestra, whom she married on April 2, 1953. The couple produced two children, Kevin 'Woody' Robinson and Beverly Robinson, and remained married until Barbara's death on November 14, 2002.
Letters, scripts of radio and television programs, a research notebook, printed materials, scrapbook materials, photographs, and an audio magnetic tape (1950-circa 1981) document part of the career of Barbara Robinson at KTBC-AM-TV in Austin, Texas. The bulk of the collection pertains to radio program scripts circa 1977-circa 1981, most of which are typewritten on recycled papers that often have on the verso dated news releases from various political offices. The papers are arranged in four series: Personal (2002, undated), including an autobiographical sketch and obituary; KTBC (1950-circa 1981), illustrating Robinson's career at the station; Real Estate Agency containing the Real Estate Agent's Guide (1 item; 1968-1971); and Assorted (1960, undated), consisting of scrapbook materials, drafts of a speech titled "Pursuit of Happiness", press photographs of world leaders, and a police report of arrests made at a "homosexual and marijuana party" in 1953.
The KTBC series includes correspondence (1962-1965, undated) that mainly records Robinson's interaction with listeners who responded to one of her radio programs; radio program scripts including "Tin Pan Alley," a daily music program (1950-1955), "Random Thoughts," a show on which Robinson expressed views on a set of wide-ranging topics such as controlling caterpillars or educating children (1963, undated), "Political News," consists of scripts of daily political news briefs (1979-1981), scripts for news stories of happenings in Austin, Texas and the surrounding area (1966-circa 1981), and a folder of research materials, notes, and scripts regarding water pollution in Austin, Texas; a set of television scripts (1963-1965) for a 'Random Thoughts'-type program, name unknown and research materials regarding Tom Miller for a television program about him; a notebook (undated) filled with clippings and notes that document details of the lives and work of Jazz composers, singers, and instrumentalists; radio program guides from the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) (1954-1955); and some radio-broadcast range maps and an undated daily radio broadcast schedule (1963, undated). On the whole, the scripts for Robinson's 'Random Thoughts' radio program are the most notable items in the papers as they are a direct record of the issues and ideas that occupied her thoughts on a daily basis.
Restrictions on Access
Material is available for research on an unrestricted basis.
Restrictions on Use
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
These papers were accumulated by Barbara Robinson, mainly during her career at KTBC. Directly before coming to the Austin History Center, the papers were most likely stored in boxes in a garage or attic, appearing in the majority to be in the order created by Robinson.
Within a year of Barbara Robinson's death, LaFalco Robinson (husband of Barbara Robinson) donated the Barbara Robinson Papers to the Austin History Center as a permanent gift. A year later, he donated additional materials.
Barbara Tramel Robinson Papers (AR.2003.024). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2003/095
Donation Date: 07/09/03 and 10/22/04
Initial Inventory and Preliminary Processing By Stephen Cooper and Vidya Narayan 2003 November 19.
Final Processing and Finding Aid By Stephen Cooper and Vidya Narayan 2003 December 1.
Additional Processing and Edited Finding Aid By Kendall Newton 2016 September 18.
The bulk of the collection consists of scripts for a news brief radio program typewritten on (recycled) sheets of paper that have unrelated, often dated content such as press releases on the verso. In processing these items, we ignored the dates on the verso which related to the press release, using only the handwritten day/month dates on the radio news brief script side of the sheets for organization. However, our examination revealed that the verso date frequently could be verified to be within a day or two prior to the day/month date recorded on the script side.
Detailed Description of the Collection