Johnnie Lee Robinson was born on July 24, 1936 to Lewis and Remell Robinson in Bainbridge, Georgia. He was the second youngest of twelve children. When he was seventeen years old, he moved to Chester, Pennsylvania to live with his sister Alva. When he was eighteen years old, he relocated to Boston, Massachusetts to live with his sister Elise. Soon thereafter he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a cook. He was stationed in New Jersey and later in Seattle, Washington. Upon his return to Massachusetts, he was employed as a fork-lift operator at General Foods in Dedham, Massachusetts.
In 1967 he married Arline Brewington of Cambridge Massachusetts. That year he enrolled in the Massachusetts School of Barbering. After graduating barber school, he started working at Smitty’s Barber Shop on River Street in Cambridge. Later he became the owner of the shop and changed the name to Johnnie’s Barbershop. Today it is called Nu Image Barbershop.
In 1977 Johnnie and his wife Arline joined Union Baptist Church in Cambridge. He served as a deacon for over thirty years. He was a member of the Men’s Fellowship, the Transportation Ministry, and he volunteered with the church’s weekly meal program, Project Uplift, and the annual calendar drive. He was once asked what his favorite thing to do is. He replied “Going to Union Baptist Church.”
Johnnie was an active board member of local organizations including Union Lodge No. 1 of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Homeowner’s Rehab, Inc., and the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Barbers. He was one of the first recipients of Homeowner’s Rehab, Inc. (HRI) Sweat Equity Program. He was a tireless board and committee member, a minority small-business owner, and a community stakeholder. He also served as a committee advisory member of the Home Improvement Program of HRI. His efforts resulted in the preservation of over 1,000 owner-occupied units for low-income families, the elderly, and disabled in Cambridge. He was a dedicated member of Board of Registration of Barbers since 2013 and served as a mentor to many young barbers in Cambridge who later began their own businesses.
Johnnie was a hard-working man who loved his family and his church. He especially loved his back yard on Cherry Street where he trimmed the hedges and flowering bushes and hosted BBQs every summer with Arline. He was a sharp dresser who was meticulous about his clothes and appearance as well as caring for his cars. Two of his favorite cars were his silver 1980 Cadillac Seville and his purple 1955 Chevrolet Impala Convertible.
He was preceded in death by his five brothers: Sam, Ozzie Lee, Sylvester, Harry, and Howard; and five sisters Willie Mae Anderson, Idella Greene, Elease Williams, Marjorie Robinson, and Alva Hubbard. He was also preceded in death by his son Anthony. He leaves to cherish his memory his wife of 53 years Arline Robinson; his sister Bobbie Jean Cochran; his children Shirley, Milo, Karima, and Johnnie Jr.; his grand-children Anthony Jr., Natisha, Unique, Treshur, Raekwon, and Maryam; several great-grand-children and a host of nieces, nephews, and cousins.
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