Educator taught students to be farmers, leaders
L.D. Robinson was recruited in the early 1940s by the Texas Education Agency to help save Katy's foundering agricultural science program.
With passion and an aptitude for organizing, teaching and encouraging others, Robinson transformed the Katy Future Farmers of America into a nationally recognized program. For 30 years as an educator and leader in Katy, "Mr. Rob" helped shape his students' lives through community events and outreach.
"My father was all about bringing people together to motivate them and get them involved," his daughter Diana Robinson Elder said.
Elder said when Robinson was hired to run Katy's agricultural science program in 1942, he inherited a program that was bankrupt and on the verge of being canceled by the school board. Robinson instead proposed a dramatic expansion of the project. He envisioned an FFA chapter farm, a local livestock show and rodeo with a lighted arena and then built a scale model of his grand design. To top it off, he promised that his efforts would not cost the board a dime.
Robinson initially raised money by purchasing some pigs with the intention to have students raise and auction them. The owner of the Katy Feed Store paid the feed bill. Robinson's students raised the pigs and when they were ready to sell, Robinson organized a fundraising event. To boost enthusiasm for the auction, he planned a "Cowboy Sports Rally" on land set aside for a football field. The rally was so successful that it became a weekly summer event for the next eight years.
The establishment of the annual Katy FFA Livestock Show, Rodeo and Parade followed from the success of the rally and auction. The first permanent livestock pens, barns and lighted rodeo arena were built according to Robinson's model in 1947 behind Katy High School at FM 1463 and South Stadium Lane.
"All the labor and materials were donated by Katy businesses and local citizens at no cost to the school board," said Elder. "Women in Katy brought meals for those who were working on construction."
Robinson persuaded the Cotts family to donate land for the agricultural science farm, which would be instrumental in helping generations of Katy students learn about nearly every aspect of farming and ranching. He taught subjects as varied as genetics, soil science and judging eggs. During his tenure, the Katy FFA won competitions at the district, state and national levels and became widely known as "the school you needed to beat in order to win," Elder said.
Before coming to Katy, Robinson was known as an historian and administrator. He had taught American and Texas history, and he was a master teacher in geometry, a school principal and a winning basketball coach.
His expertise was so broad and his standing within the community so high that he was offered the position of superintendent of Katy ISD, Elder said. He declined so that he could continue in his role as FFA adviser and agricultural science teacher. In 1960, Robinson was awarded the National Honorary American Farmer Degree.
"He brought together people who were otherwise on the outs by persuading them to act for the benefit of the kids," Elder said. "He just had that way about him—he was a strong, kind and gentle leader."
Katy Livestock Show, Rodeo and Parade and Kick Off Dance
- To commemorate the rodeo's 70th anniversary, a special concert and dance featuring the Casey Donahew Band will be held at the Merrell Center on Saturday, Feb. 9, to benefit the L.D. Robinson Scholarship Fund. For tickets, visit www.merrellcenter.org
- Robinson's legacy of leadership with the Katy ISD and FFA will be recognized with the reading of a state proclamation in his honor.
- Each year, the L.D. Robinson Scholarship awards three to four 4-year scholarships to graduating seniors in the Katy ISD FFA and agricultural science program. For more information, visit www.ldrskaty.org
- The rodeo is held over three nights (Feb. 21–23) and features dozens of events across all age brackets. Proceeds from ticket sales ($10 for ages 11 and up, $5 for ages 3–10, free for 2 and under) support agricultural education within Katy ISD. www.katyrodeo.org
- The parade will begin Feb. 23 at 9:30 a.m., departing the west gate of Rhodes Stadium turning south on Katyland Drive, then west on Hwy. 90 to Katy High School.
- Next to the rodeo grounds parking area, Crabtree Amusements, Inc. will set up carnival rides and shows, which will coincide with the rodeo on Feb. 21–23.