By Marjory Raymer
Flint made civil rights history in 1968 when it became the first city to pass a referendum banning housing discrimination -- a simple, but then revolutionary idea that C. Frederick Robinson helped make a reality.
"He helped galvanize the entire city. He was determined not to lose that vote. He was determined," said U.S. Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Flint. "There was so much at stake."
Robinson was killed Friday evening in a shooting at his home. Police have not yet released additional details, but sources have identified Robinson as the victim.
Kildee said he first met Robinson as a teacher in Flint when he first joined the NAACP -- because anyone and everyone who was involved soon crossed paths with Robinson.
He was an outspoken leader and an attorney who would publicly point out discrimination whenever and wherever he saw it happening. He helped lead a month-long protest of police brutality at City Hall in the 1950s, spoke out against plans that he believed would give black students less opportunities in school in 1963 and led the charge for open housing in the 1960s.
And, he could expertly ruffle feathers of elected leaders who didn't heed his words.
"He was not a quiet person," Kildee said. "He was very assertive and he pushed for what he believed in."
His critical role in the 1968 fair housing referendum was turning out the vote, Kildee said. The measure ended up passing by just 43 votes, just 0.1 percent.
The vote came six months after a high-profile protest at City Hall. In August, 1967, residents waged a 10-day "sleep-in, " which brought then-Gov. George Romney to Flint for a unity rally that drew thousands.
"He was really a seeker of justice," Kildee said. "He was the natural leader. I can recall spending many meetings plotting strategy with him -- and socializing. He really loved life."