A tale of two men

A tale of two men
Dr. Morgan Delaney and Ira Robinson both died at the end of April. (Courtesy photos)

Today’s Alexandria Times contains obituaries of two men who had a profound, enduring impact on our city: Dr. Morgan Delaney and attorney Ira L. Robinson.

One was white, one Black. One spent his whole life living in and loving our city. The other left a lasting legacy in less than a decade here. Both were viewed by those who knew them well as remarkable conversationalists who were a joy to be around.

Many in Alexandria are still coming to grips with the sudden passing of Delaney – who was tall, robust, handsome and a still-energetic 77 years old – because his death following routine surgery was so unexpected.

Anyone who ever sat next to Delaney at dinner can remember the experience years later. Despite being the most popular person in any room he entered, Delaney had the rare quality of making each person he spoke with feel that there was no one with whom he’d rather converse.

Delaney’s long list of contributions to Alexandria include serving as president of the Historic Alexandria Foundation for more than 40 years, where he helped save and restore many of Alexandria’s most iconic buildings. He was also a leading regional pulmonologist and professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine.

To learn more about this remarkable man, see the obituary prepared by Delaney’s husband, Osborne Mackie, on page 21 and the Times’ obituary feature.

By contrast, Robinson only lived in Alexandria for seven years, beginning in 1967 – but what an impact he had in a short timeframe! Robinson moved to Alexandria after gaining his law degree from the University of Virginia as nationwide racial protests, often accompanied by violence, were increasing.

During his time here, the country grappled with the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, and Alexandria struggled through violence following the killing of a 19-year-old Black teenager – and the consolidation of all three Alexandria high schools into T.C. Williams in 1971.

Robinson put his talents and law degree to use by serving on the Alexandria Crime Commission, the Alexandria Commission on Criminal Justice, boards of the Boys’ Club, the NAACP, and on the Alexandria Economic Opportunities Commission and the Mayor’s ad hoc Committee on Health Care.

His extensive community involvement culminated in Robinson’s election to City Council in 1970 – the first Black Alexandria resident elected to serve on that body since the post-Civil War reconstruction era. That Robinson’s job took him away from Alexandria, and cross-country to California, at the end of his lone term on Council was certainly the city’s loss.

For more information about Robinson’s life, please see the Times obituary feature story.

These two remarkable men were very different – and yet each had a profound impact on our city. They will be missed, but those who loved them can also take comfort in the knowledge that their legacies will endure