Theotis Robinson Jr. is University of Tennessee vice president and diversity advisor. He joined the University staff in 1989, was appointed vice president for equity and diversity in 2000 and announced plans in November 2012 to retire in January 2014.
His responsibilities in this transitional role include continuing to advise the UT president on diversity initiatives and Title VI reporting, serve as a liaison with government and community relations, support development activities, work to build relationships with diversity-oriented organizations, attend to matters relating to minority vendors and contractors, serve as a spokesperson and attend community and statewide events related to diversity and assist in facilitating diversity-related professional development for executive officers.
Robinson was vice president of economic development for the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair. He served on Knoxville City Council from 1970 to 1977—the first African American elected to that office in more than a half century.
Robinson applied to attend undergraduate school at UT in July 1960 but was denied admission because of his race. Robinson, then 18-years-old, and his parents met with UT President Andy Holt to appeal the denial. Under the threat of a lawsuit, the UT Board of Trustees changed the policy regarding admission of “Negroes” on Nov. 18, 1960, and Robinson was admitted. He, together with two other black students, enrolled at UT on Jan. 4, 1961.
He was a charter inductee into the University of Tennessee African American Hall of Fame in 1994. He is a member of the UT Commission for Blacks and a former political opinion columnist whose columns were published in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Knoxville’s Metro Pulse newspaper also named him one of the 100 most influential Knoxvillians of the 20th century.
He is a graduate of Leadership Knoxville and a former board member of Planned Parenthood of East Tennessee, Tennessee Valley Center for Minority Economic Development, Leadership Knoxville, Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Knoxville Area Urban League, and the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials.
He and his wife, Jonida, live in Knoxville. He is the father of five children, four surviving, and nine grandchildren.
Theotis Robinson Jr.
Visit the University of Tennessee Office of Equity and Diversity