Family remembers Savannah attorney killed in 1989 bombing

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - On Thursday at 6 p.m., the state of Alabama will execute Walter Leroy Moody,  the man convicted for the murder of beloved Savannah attorney and Alderman Robbie Robinson.

Just a few days before Christmas in 1989, Robinson opened a package sent his office on Abercorn Street. Inside that small brown package, was a pipe bomb that exploded and killed him.

Robinson's murder shocked the entire community, and, unfortunately, he wasn't Moody's only victim. Moody was also convicted of sending a mail bomb to the Alabama home of federal appellate Judge Robert S. Vance that very same week.

Vance also died in that explosion and his wife was injured.

Authorities later connected Moody to bombs sent to the 11th circuit court in Atlanta, and the Jacksonville, Florida, office of the NAACP.

Now, 28 years after Robinson's murder, Moody is paying the price for killing a man who dedicated his life to serving others and fighting for equality.

Robinson's only siblings, his two older sisters, tell me this painful day is still fresh in their memories.

"I was living in NJ at the time and received a call that something had happened at my brother's office but I didn't know what. In the meantime his picture flashed on my TV that a mailbomb had been sent to him," Ruth Teasley said.

"No one said hello, the phone was picked up, and all I could hear was my mom screaming," said Barbara Pulliam, the middle child of the Robinson family.

Former Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson served with Robinson on city council and called him a dear friend. He still remembers that day like it was yesterday.

"When I heard about it that afternoon I thought someone was playing a cruel joke… I got the call saying Robert has just been hurt by a bomb," he said.

Even those who covered this horrific act couldn't believe it. Former WTOC anchor Doug Weathers said WTOC's Mike Manhatton was the first one on the scene.

"Robbie Robinson's office was about five blocks from WTOC. We heard there was an explosion in that block. We had no idea it was Robbie Robinson's office," he said.

Robinson's murder to this day is still hard for so many to grasp. At 42 years old, Robinson was a successful attorney with a bright future, who came from humble beginnings.

His sister said "he was one of the ones that volunteered to go to Savannah High. He was the first black  and he suffered a lot of abuse."

After making history at Savannah High, Robinson went on to serve in the Air Force and later graduated from Savannah State. He then went on to the University of Georgia where he received his law degree.

In 1982, voters elected Robinson to serve as alderman for the newly created fifth district in the city of Savannah, an area that gave him an opportunity to make a difference in a community still dealing with the aftermath of desegregation.

"There was a lot of work still to be done in terms of what we would call an equity agenda, bringing the black community up to par with the other neighborhoods in the community," Johnson said.

His other passion was his work for the local chapter of the NAACP. Prosecutors said Moody targeted Robinson because of that work. They believe Moody did this because of his decades long grudge against the justice system, and what he thought was a double standard for groups like the NAACP. Prosecutors also believed he targeted the NAACP to make authorities think white supremacists were behind the bombings.

"Moody didn't not know Robert and didn't care to know him. He was just a black attorney for the NAACP," Johnson said.

Robinson's funeral took place on Christmas Eve during a historic Savannah snowfall, and his sister said the holidays are always a painful reminder of what happened nearly 30 years ago.

"Somewhere in Christmas time, during the holidays, I don't know whether it's going to come during the morning, night. I have a total breakdown like it just happened. I just start crying."

As their brother's killer is set to be executed, I asked the Robinson sisters if they feel justice is finally being served. They say it's complicated,

"I lost my brother. It's not going to bring him back. I'm just glad to know he never got out."

"I get some satisfaction that I lived to see the day he would be executed for the crime that he caused and the pain he caused my family."

Robinson leaves behind two daughters. I spoke with his youngest, Tiffani, who said Moody's execution won't bring back her father.

But no matter how many years pass after his death, the Robinson family simply wants Robbie to be remembered as a good man.

"I want them to remember him as a loving person who loved people and he loved working for the things he believed in."

The Robinson family has no plans to attend Moody's execution. In fact, they'll all be together with Tiffani, as she accepts an award for excellence in nursing.

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