Robinson & Son Bring 123-Year-Old Pine Bluff Funeral Home into 21st Century

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jul. 8, 2013 12:00 am  

Scott Robinson, left, with his father, Adam Robinson Jr. The funeral home they operate was founded in 1890. (Photo by Mauren Kennedy)

Scott Robinson recalled the first funeral in which he helped his father, Adam Robinson Jr. It was for that of his 15-year-old cousin who had contracted meningitis and had died within a couple of days of falling ill.

That was in 1995 and Scott was just 16 himself. Now 34, Scott Robinson related the one good thing about the tragedy of his cousin’s death, the thing that is one of the advantages of being a funeral director:

“While everybody else is trying to figure out what to do, you know what you can do to help. I kind of figured that out real early on. And I liked that part of it. … Everybody else buys flowers and sends food because, frankly, they don’t know what else to do. And we’ve got a concrete way to help.”

Scott Robinson is the current “son” in Ralph Robinson & Son Funeral Home in Pine Bluff. He’s vice president and the fifth generation to operate the business, founded in 1890 by the “Ralph” in the company’s name. Scott’s father, Adam, 63, is president.

Both said they didn’t set out to carry forward their family’s business. For Scott, it was just going to be a summer job. For Adam, working in the summer with his father was simply a way to get to spend time with a man in a profession in which you’re always on call. Death doesn’t take a holiday.

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“If you don’t like working holidays, if you don’t like working weekends, if you don’t like working on your birthday, your wife’s birthday, your son’s graduation day, you don’t belong in this business,” Adam Robinson said.

Robinson & Son has nine full-time employees — not counting father and son, the only family members currently drawing their livelihoods from the business — and five part-time workers.

Scott Robinson declined to release revenue figures. To give some sense of the scope of the business, his father said they get about one “death call” a day, which, he said, doesn’t mean they conduct that many services. The funeral business encompasses a number of duties, only one of those being the holding of a full funeral.

Taking up the family calling was something they fell into, both father and son said.

For Scott, his decision to make his career at Robinson & Son was an evolution. His father “never got rid of me, which is what that amounts to,” Scott said, laughing. “It just kind of morphed from there.”

He has a bachelor’s degree in business from Lyon College in Batesville and a master’s in business from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Scott graduated from funeral service and mortuary science school in 2003.



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