Dr. Robbie Irene Barnes Bingham, PhD, took her final breath on May 28, 2021, at 12:50 a.m. moving on to a land free of pain, sickness, and sorrow. There she joins her beloved husband, Dr. Haskell S. Bingham, parents, Elmer and Lora Lucas Barnes and siblings (Oree, Nolan, Julius, Ruth, Mae Etta, and Beverly) who preceded her to Glory.
Robbie I. Barnes was born in the Hopewell Community of Collins, (Covington County) MS on September 27, 1935. She was the seventh child of the nine children born to Elmer and Lora Lucas Barnes. She was raised in a God-fearing home where her mother, Mrs. Lora Barnes, believed in the “five great stones” being the foundation of a home: a united faith in Christ, mutual love, confidence, encouragement and thrift.” Robbie became a devout member of the Old Hopewell Baptist Church. Robbie loved going to school (when she was not working in the fields). At Hopewell High, Robbie’s interests included drama, singing and music. She graduated from Hopewell High School as the Valedictorian of her class.
The Barnes family shared love and encouragement. The children were all intelligent and instilled with persistence, confidence, and frugality. These values enabled Robbie, along with her NINE Barnes siblings, to attend and graduate from what was then known as Jackson State College (JSC). With Robbie’s commitment to scholarship and excellence, JSC’s dedication to educating the underserved Negro (Black) population of MS, her father’s hands on the plow and her mother’s prayers and seamstress work, all contributed to her success. Graduating any “Negro” child from college, let alone “Negro” parents in rural, segregated Mississippi raising children during the Great Depression and Jim Crow eras, was a magnificent feat! As this was during a time when women were not encouraged to pursue a college education. Dr. Bingham often told the story of how her father said that girls just went to college and got married. Dr. Bingham let everyone know that she went to JSC with an emphasis on scholastics! She enjoyed going to college, but while there she also worked hard studying and performing part time jobs.
When she joined her brothers and sisters at JSC, her major was Language Arts with a minor in Social Science. She pledged and was initiated into the Gamma Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. at Jackson State College. By being a member of a sorority, she not only held to one of her mother’s core beliefs of supporting the community, but also that of being thrifty. At JSC, she also played intramural basketball, participated in student organizations, and was Miss Alpha Phi Alpha. This culminated in her being ultimately elected, by her peers, to the tremendous honor of “Miss Jackson State College, 1956-57”. This honor she upheld until her health prevented her from travelling and participating.
Dr. Bingham became the jewel of what is now known as Jackson State University. There she also met the man who would become her divine, life mate for 54 years. Twice elected Student Government President, Haskell S. Bingham, escorted her as she was crowned Miss Jackson State College on October 5, 1956. The Blue and White Flash newspaper noted in her acceptance speech that she pledged “to work faithfully [. . .] towards a greater Jackson State College.” Her siblings have helped her fulfill this pledge with their combined Barnes Family siblings’ gift to JSU of over $300,000. In fact, Dr. Robbie Barnes Bingham herself established a fund of $20,000 to be used as a loan fund to assist students in need as she
had been while a student. At JSC, she worked her way through school cleaning for Ms. Davis, applying and securing scholarships and education loans.
After she graduated from JSC in 1957, she focused on finding “good work”. She spent two years as both an English teacher and Librarian at Jim Hill Junior and Senior High Schools. Also, during this time, she married her handsome Coronation escort, Haskell Bingham on June 12, 1960. To that union two daughters were born, Pamela and Gail, in the turbulent 1960s.
Her career desire to become the school’s primary Librarian in 1969, shaped her career path. Pamela fondly remembers her mother taking her and her sister to the book signings at Jackson State and introduced them to the wide world via books. Her mother had an early copy of Jubilee written by her Professor Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander and the early books of celebrated author (and Jackson neighbor) Alice Walker. Pamela notes, “Mama always bought books home (especially Newbery and Caldecott award winners in children’s literature or books about famous African Americans) or we were there in the library with her at Jackson State reading.
Not satisfied with just her M.A. in Librarianship from The University of Denver, Robbie Bingham was determined to explore the top tiers of her profession, support Jackson State University, and be a role model for her daughters, Pamela, and Gail. Therefore, she embarked on her doctorial journey at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She also conducted dissertation research in MS, LA, and AL. Dr. Bingham faced challenges and isolation as a double minority (being Black and female) but persevered at Rutgers University earning her doctorate in Library and Information Studies in 1979.
After graduation from JSC, both Drs. Bingham were loyal JSU alumnae known to lovingly debate which one of them was Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander’s favorite student at Jackson State. They attended JSU’s football games as a family throughout the SWAC conference! Both shared the responsibility of being elected Co-PTA President at their daughter’s schools. They also enjoyed “chauffeuring” the girls to church choir rehearsal, piano/violin lessons, Girl Scout meetings, cheerleading, school choir, tennis, or whatever school or church activities the girls were involved in at the time. In their home, Robbie was known for preparing “good home-cooked” meals for their many nieces and nephews matriculating at Jackson State University. They also fed and housed students during Hurricane Camille disaster in 1969. Dr. Bingham was a Graduate Advisor and held other offices as a member of Beta Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She and her biological/sorority sisters Mae Etta Marshall and Beverly Smith of Natchez attended sorority conferences taking her daughters, and Darryl Smith with them. The Bingham’s also loved their monthly trips to Vicksburg to visit the Bingham families, Christmas travel to visit the Natchez sisters’ families and trips to the Collins homestead to visit the Barnes-McCanns-Lucas families in Collins.
In 1984, Dr. Haskell Bingham moved them to Virginia for him to become Provost. Dr. Robbie Bingham maintained her position as Assistant Professor of Library Science at JSU. After getting settled in VA, she later continued her career at Virginia State University. She was a member of the American Library Association and the Virginia Educational Media Association. She became an active facilitator for the School of Education and the School of Continuing Education at Virginia State University. While also living in Virginia, daughter, Dr. Gail Bingham, graduated from Hampton University (VA) and Howard University (DC), while daughter Pamela Bingham graduated from the University of Florida (FL) and did graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University (MD).
Dr. Robbie Bingham was known in her Petersburg’s neighborhood as maintaining a “leaf-free” front yard! She raked Magnolia tree leaves every day until failing health. She was involved in the local Libra Club and the Senior Triad in her later years, participating in meetings, trips, and events.
Over the years, she was a humble and quiet philanthropist. In addition to JSU, she also gave to Farish Street Baptist Church, Gillfield Baptist Church, Girl Scouts, Operation Shoestring, St. Jude, Disabled American Veterans, and other worthy charities.
“God, Family, and Scholarship” were her mantras. Mourning the loss of their beloved mother are her daughters: Pamela (VA) and Gail (MD); grandson, Jonathan (MD); brothers: Bernis (Forrestine) Barnes (MD) and Dr. George Barnes (Doris) (MS); sisters-in-law: Anita Barnes (CA), Julia Bingham Thomas (MS), and Margaret Ann Bingham (MS); first cousins: Larry (Camille) Lucas and Laura Dean Lucas Sykes; and a host of nephews, nieces, numerous cousins, former students, neighbors, and friends.
Homegoing Service for Dr. Robbie Irene Barnes Bingham (September 27, 1935 - May 28, 2021) will be Friday, June 11th @12:00 Noon at Farish Street Baptist Church located on 619 North Farish St. Jackson, MS 39202 ( 601-355-0636)
Arrangements managed by Peoples Funeral Home ( 601-969-3040) Attn: Maria Bingham Reed 886 North Farish St. Jackson, MS 39202 (Masks are required)
MEMORIAL -- June 30th 2021 @ 4:30 p.m. Gillfield Baptist Church 209 Perry St. Petersburg, VA 23803 ( 804-863-2147)
Donations may be sent to:
- Estate of D. Robbie B. Bingham/ Pamela R. Bingham, Conservator, 1717 West Princeton Rd, Petersburg, VA 23805
- Jackson State University/Dr. Robbie B. Bingham Endowed Fund/ Miss Jackson State University Fund.
- Beta Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Endowed Scholarship/JSU. RB Bingham in Memo Line
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