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9 Nov 2012

Obituary Oscar C. Robinson, Jr. first black jeweler on Jeweler’s Row, 85

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November 9, 2012 Category: Oasis Posted by:

Oscar C. Robinson, Jr., 85, the first African American jeweler on Philadelphia’s famed Jeweler’s Row, a decorated U.S. Army veteran and a dedicated Mason, was buried last week following funeral services a Zion Baptist Church.


Oscar C. Robinson, Sr. was the son of the late James C. Robinson, III, and Dallas Wallace Robinson. He was born on August 24, 1927 in Philadelphia, PA. He received his education in the Philadelphia Public Schools, graduating from Bok Technical High School with a major in watch making. He was the only African American in his class which was the last class in watch making at Bok Technical High School. This was the beginning of his career as a Master Jeweler.


Mr. Robinson was baptized at an early age, at the Church of St. Simon the Cyrenian, where he became a member and served faithfully for more than 70 years. He has served as a Member of the Vestry, and the Church Board. Although he was not an official member of Zion Baptist Church, his good friend the late Rev. Dr. Leon H. Sullivan made him an honorary member.


During the 1940’s, Mr. Robinson worked for several Jewelers where his watchful eyes and eagerness to learn enabled him to master his craft and become a great jewelry maker.


Mr. Robinson enlisted in the United States Army on July 1, 1953, where he served as an Ordnance Specialist and was Honorably Discharged as Staff Sergeant E6 on May 17, 1959. He remained in the United States Army Reserves for 20 years.



Mr. Robinson began working for the U.S. Mint as a medal maker, however, he wanted something more challenging, so he began looking for a place to set up his business on Jewelers Row. He found space on the second floor of a building on 8th Street in Center City, Philadelphia.


He started out working for other stores, repairing and making jewelry. He was the man behind the man.


He did work for Gimbels and Baileys. Pearl Heart Jewelers, on the first floor would get the jewelry in their store, and take it upstairs to Oscar to fix. After building a reputation, it was no problem getting customers. The news spread and other jewelers started coming to him with business. He made jewelry for entertainers such as Pearl Bailey, Duke Ellington and other major stars of the 60s. For many years Oscar was the only African American jeweler in business for himself in the elite Jeweler’s District. He was the President of the Jeweler’s Row Association. His craft has won the approval of satisfied customers on four continents for more than 60 years.


His belief was “The measure of a man is in his knowledge, integrity and uncompromising standards of excellence”.


Oscar was a dedicated Mason, member of Blue House, St Albans #35, Patron of the Eastern Star Chapter, Union 46, a member of Demolay Consistory #1, honored with a 33″‘ degree. Within the Masonic circles Oscar took exceptional pride in rendering a needed service to that community. He was a jeweler for the Prince Hall Masons for more than forty years. He served the Northern and Southern Jurisdiction and covered Japan and Germany, for the Prince Hall Masons. He was well respected.


In 1983, Oscar married the love of his life Gladys King Harper, his “Sweetie” as he affectionately called her.


Besides being a member of the Free Masons, Oscar was a life-time member of Club 55. He was appointed by Rev. Leon Sullivan as Captain of the investment organization known as the Progress Self-Help Investment Plan #1 (Progress S.H.I.P. #1). He received numerous awards.


Oscar Robinson is survived by his beautiful wife, Gladys Harper Robinson, AKA “Sweetie”; son, Oscar C. (Sharon) Robinson, Jr.; stepsons, Ronald (Betty) Harper and ReCarter “Rick” (Cheryl) Harper; brother, William Mingledors; sisters, Gertrude Eaddy, Dallas Culpepper, Willa Johnson, and Wilma Mingledors, of North Carolina; four brothers-in-law; nine sisters-in-law; stepsister, Evangie Constamato of Phila., PA; grandchildren, Jason, Thomas and Ciera Robinson, Ronald Woodbury, Ronald Harper, Jr., Jennifer (Raymond) Downs; great-grandchildren, Ronald Harper III, Zari and Jason Robinson, and Raymond Downs III, his close friend whom he considered his son, Johnnie Hatch; nieces, nephews, cousins, family and friends. He was preceded in death by his daughter Torri A. Robinson, and his brother James C. Robinson IV.

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