Photos provided by the Stark County District Library
Romona Robinson decided she wanted to be a journalist at age 6, while she was sitting with her mother in rural Missouri watching Walter Cronkite anchor the CBS Evening News.
She would imitate his voice, trying to make her lips match his as he offered his iconic goodnight to viewers.
“And then it just grew,” Robinson said of her love for TV news. “It grew like wildfire.”
Robinson eventually became Cleveland’s first black female news anchor and the first woman to solo-anchor a newscast in the city, with a career in television that spanned more than 30 years.
She will speak about her memoir “A Dirt Road to Somewhere: An Emmy Award-Winning Anchor’s Incredible Journey of Faith Over Fear” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. February 20 at the Canton Palace Theatre as part of the Dr. Audrey Lavin Speaking of Books Author Series.
Robinson came to Cleveland after leaving a job in South Carolina that wasn’t giving her an opportunity to advance to a weeknight slot.
She was working at a Lancôme cosmetics counter and sending out audition tapes, but she wasn’t getting any calls back.
Then, one day, she went home and had three messages on her machine: One from Des Moines, one from Philadelphia and one from Cleveland. She flew to all three interviews within 32 hours, determined to get one of those jobs.
“Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, God just showed up.”
She chose Cleveland, launching a career that earned her eight Emmy awards and that created Romona’s Kids, a television segment that highlights how local children are succeeding at school and helping the community.
In 2011, Robinson was one of four reporters invited to the White House to interview President Barack Obama—something her mother had told her never would be possible.
When Robinson sat down with the president, he asked the first questions, about her family and how her mother was doing.
“And I said, she’s great, and she said to tell you hello, and she adores you, and I’m not supposed to say that because I’m supposed to be an objective journalist, but I had to pass the message on,” Robinson said.
Robinson makes public speaking appearances, and when she talks to kids, she talks to them about voices (which also is the subject of her newest book, “Your Voice is Your Power.”)
Her mother pushed her and wanted the world for her, but her mother’s voice told her she couldn’t achieve her dream.
“And sometimes my mom’s truth was not my truth,” Robinson said. “She lived in a time where that was not possible, but for me, it ended up being possible.”