Austin History Center

Barbara Tramel Robinson Papers

An Inventory of the Collection

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Robinson, Barbara Tramel, 1927-2002
Title: Barbara Tramel Robinson Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1950-1981
Bulk Dates: 1977-1981
Abstract: This collection of materials was accumulated by Barbara Robinson, mostly during her career at KTBC-AM-TV in Austin, Texas. The bulk of the material is made up of scripts for a daily news brief radio program but also includes letters from Robinson and her 'Random Thoughts' radio program scripts.
Identification: AR.2003.024
Quantity: 3.4 linear feet (4 boxes)
Location: Archives Stacks and Recordings Collection
Language: The records are in English.
Repository: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, 810 Guadalupe, PO BOX 2287, Austin, TX, 78768

Biographical Note

Barbara Tramel Robinson was born July 16, 1927, in Abilene, Texas, to Lucille Cody and Byron Bert Tramel. As a child Barbara saw much of West Texas with her mother, a schoolteacher who traveled often for work during the Depression. A permanent public school teaching position brought the Tramel family to San Marcos, Texas, where Barbara attended high school, graduating in 1942 at the age of fifteen. After obtaining degrees in English, History, and Government at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Barbara moved to Austin, Texas in search of work. There she held a variety of odd jobs until 1953 when a friend, a fellow volunteer-thespian at the Austin Little Theatre, suggested she apply for a music librarian position at the KTBC-AM-TV station which broadcasted at that time from studios in the Driskell Hotel in downtown Austin. The move into radio was a pivotal one in Barbara's professional career.

KTBC, owned in the majority since 1943 by Mrs. Claudia T. (Lady Bird) Johnson, wife of then-senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, had just the year prior to Barbara's joining the staff become the first television station in Austin. Radio, however, was to be the medium of the majority of Barbara's work at the station. As the music librarian, her primary responsibility was to pull enough recordings to fill the various music segments, but Barbara's supervisors must have quickly recognized her potential for she was soon assisting in programming the music and interviewing musicians and composers that played in Austin, including Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Buddy Rich, and Gene Krupa, among other notables. Around the same time Barbara played voice roles in commercials and on Cactus Pryor radio shows, at times even playing male characters since she could make her voice low enough to convince a listening audience.

Barbara's role at the station was one of ever-increasing responsibility and visibility. After proving her interviewing and writing skills, she began writing "Tin Pan Alley," a daily music show during the 1950s. In the 1960s, after serving for about three years as a commercial copy writer, Barbara got her own show, a short but daily talk segment called "Random Thoughts" in which she had the freedom to expound on any subject of her choosing. This show may have been part of the KTBC television news show from 1963-65, as she worked with Neal Spelce, a well-known reporter during television's early days in Austin. In any case, at some point during the 1970s Barbara's career did take a turn towards news radio and television when she began covering city hall and making a name for herself as one of the first women in the region covering hard news, only the second woman reporter in the history of Austin radio. In addition to hosting a one-hour talk show featuring interviews with city, county, and state officials followed by a public call-in segment, Barbara also wrote and read hourly political news briefs.

Her interest in politics is perhaps what eventually led to her final career change. In addition to working on the campaigns of several local politicians, she was an Information Specialist in the Texas Department of Agriculture under Jim Hightower and Rick Perry until her retirement at the age of sixty-seven.

Through her activities in Austin's music and theater, Barbara met LaFalco 'Corkey' Robinson, a musician and a leader of a local orchestra, whom she married on April 2, 1953. The couple produced two children, Kevin 'Woody' Robinson and Beverly Robinson, and remained married until Barbara's death on November 14, 2002.

Scope and Contents

Letters, scripts of radio and television programs, a research notebook, printed materials, scrapbook materials, photographs, and an audio magnetic tape (1950-circa 1981) document part of the career of Barbara Robinson at KTBC-AM-TV in Austin, Texas. The bulk of the collection pertains to radio program scripts circa 1977-circa 1981, most of which are typewritten on recycled papers that often have on the verso dated news releases from various political offices. The papers are arranged in four series: Personal (2002, undated), including an autobiographical sketch and obituary; KTBC (1950-circa 1981), illustrating Robinson's career at the station; Real Estate Agency containing the Real Estate Agent's Guide (1 item; 1968-1971); and Assorted (1960, undated), consisting of scrapbook materials, drafts of a speech titled "Pursuit of Happiness", press photographs of world leaders, and a police report of arrests made at a "homosexual and marijuana party" in 1953.

The KTBC series includes correspondence (1962-1965, undated) that mainly records Robinson's interaction with listeners who responded to one of her radio programs; radio program scripts including "Tin Pan Alley," a daily music program (1950-1955), "Random Thoughts," a show on which Robinson expressed views on a set of wide-ranging topics such as controlling caterpillars or educating children (1963, undated), "Political News," consists of scripts of daily political news briefs (1979-1981), scripts for news stories of happenings in Austin, Texas and the surrounding area (1966-circa 1981), and a folder of research materials, notes, and scripts regarding water pollution in Austin, Texas; a set of television scripts (1963-1965) for a 'Random Thoughts'-type program, name unknown and research materials regarding Tom Miller for a television program about him; a notebook (undated) filled with clippings and notes that document details of the lives and work of Jazz composers, singers, and instrumentalists; radio program guides from the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) (1954-1955); and some radio-broadcast range maps and an undated daily radio broadcast schedule (1963, undated). On the whole, the scripts for Robinson's 'Random Thoughts' radio program are the most notable items in the papers as they are a direct record of the issues and ideas that occupied her thoughts on a daily basis.


The series are named based on the functions and activities of Barbara Robinson, mainly during her professional activities at KTBC. The series are further divided into sub-series that provide further delineation of her activities.
Arranged into 4 series:
I. Personal
III. Real Estate Agency
IV. Assorted


Restrictions on Access

Material is available for research on an unrestricted basis.

Restrictions on Use

The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.

Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Bolten, Paul.
Carrington, Walter.
Kellam, J. C.
Love, Dan.
Miller, Tom.
Robinson, Barbara, 1927-2002.
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
KTBC-TV (Television station: Austin, Tex.).
KTBC-TV (Radio station: Austin, Tex.).
Austin (Tex.)--Social conditions.
Austin (Tex.)--Politics and government.
Radio broadcasting.
Radio journalists.
Radio programs.
Radio programs--musical.
Radio scripts.
Document Types:
Magnetic audio tapes.
Post cards.
Program schedules.
Radio scripts.
Random Thoughts.
Tin Pan Alley.

Separated Material

The following items were removed from the collection and stored in separate locations to provide better access and preservation:

The Texas Observer, 11 issues (1959-1965), stored in Periodicals Collection

Administrative Information

Custodial History

These papers were accumulated by Barbara Robinson, mainly during her career at KTBC. Directly before coming to the Austin History Center, the papers were most likely stored in boxes in a garage or attic, appearing in the majority to be in the order created by Robinson.

Within a year of Barbara Robinson's death, LaFalco Robinson (husband of Barbara Robinson) donated the Barbara Robinson Papers to the Austin History Center as a permanent gift. A year later, he donated additional materials.

Preferred Citation

Barbara Tramel Robinson Papers (AR.2003.024). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donor #: DO/2003/095

Donation Date: 07/09/03 and 10/22/04

Processing Information

Initial Inventory and Preliminary Processing By Stephen Cooper and Vidya Narayan 2003 November 19.

Final Processing and Finding Aid By Stephen Cooper and Vidya Narayan 2003 December 1.

Additional Processing and Edited Finding Aid By Kendall Newton 2016 September 18.

The bulk of the collection consists of scripts for a news brief radio program typewritten on (recycled) sheets of paper that have unrelated, often dated content such as press releases on the verso. In processing these items, we ignored the dates on the verso which related to the press release, using only the handwritten day/month dates on the radio news brief script side of the sheets for organization. However, our examination revealed that the verso date frequently could be verified to be within a day or two prior to the day/month date recorded on the script side.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Personal, 2002, undated

Box Folder
1 1 Biographical/autobiography, 2002, undated

KTBC, 1950-circa 1981

Correspondence, 1962-1965, undated
Box Folder
1 2 Letters sent, 1963, 1965
3 Letters received, 1962-1965, undated
Radio Programs, 1950-circa 1981, undated
Box Folder
1 4 Tin Pan Alley, 1950-1952
5 Tin Pan Alley, 1953-1955
Box Folder
4 7 Random Thoughts, 1960 January 4-1965 January 6, undated
Box Folder
1 6 Random Thoughts, 1963 March 14, April 5, undated
7 Random Thoughts, 1963 April 5, undated
8 Random Thoughts, 1963 August 27, undated
9 Random Thoughts, 1963 November 15, undated
10 Random Thoughts, 1963 April 5, 1964 May 5, undated
11 Random Thoughts, 1964 March 25, March 26, undated
Box Folder
4 5 Random Thoughts, 1964 March 27-1965 February 24, undated
Box Folder
1 12 Random Thoughts, 1965 March 1, undated
Box Folder
4 6 Random Thoughts, 1965 June 22-August 16, undated
Box Folder
1 13-18 Random Thoughts, undated
19 Political news briefs, circa 1977-1981 January 9-April 25
20 Political news briefs, circa 1979 July 6-September 19
21 Political news briefs, circa 1979 September 21-December 16
22 Political news briefs, circa 1979-1980 January 8-March 3
23 Political news briefs, circa 1979-1980 April 14-August 29
24 Political news briefs, circa 1979-1981 May 27-July 2
25 Political news briefs, circa 1980 April 25-September 1
Box Folder
2 1 Political news briefs, circa 1980 July 10-August 23
2 Political news briefs, circa 1980 July 10-December 31
3 Political news briefs, circa 1980 September 2-September 20
4 Political news briefs, circa 1980 September 20-October 25
5 Political news briefs, circa 1980 September 24-November 11
6 Political news briefs, circa 1980 September 24-December 1
7 Political news briefs, circa 1980-1981 January 1-August 14
8 Political news briefs, circa 1980 January 25-July 23, circa 1981 May 5-May 21
9 Political news briefs, circa 1980-1981 March 31-June 16
10 Political news briefs, circa 1981 January 5-August 26
11 Political news briefs, circa 1981 February 18-November 15
12 Political news briefs, circa 1981 March 23-May 5
13-14 Political news briefs, circa 1981 June 16-July 17
Box Folder
3 12-13 News stories, 1966 February 26, circa 1981 September 16-December 4
15-16 Water pollution, 1962 October 19-1965 October 11, undated
TV Programs, 1963-1965, undated
Box Folder
2 15 Unnamed program, 1963-1965
Box Folder
4 1 Tom Miller program, 1938 March 5-1947 December 5, 1958 December-1960 July, undated
2 Tom Miller photos (photos nos. 001-012), undated
3 Tom Miller with others photos (photos nos. 013-037), undated
4 Press photographs of world leaders (photos nos. 044-066), 1962 February 3-1966 May 6, undated
Music Research Notebook, undated
Box Folder
2 16 A-B, undated
17 C-E, undated
18 F-K, undated
Box Folder
3 1 L-Mc, undated
2 N-S, undated
3 T-Z, undated
4-5 Assorted, undated
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), 1954-1955
Box Folder
3 6 Program guides, 1954-1955
Maps and Schedules, 1963, undated
Box Folder
3 7 Maps and schedule, 1963, undated

Real Estate Agency, 1968-1971

Box Folder
3 8-9 Real Estate Agent's Guide, 1968-1971

Assorted, 1953-1971, undated

Box Folder
3 10 Scrapbook materials, mainly related to Texas, 1960 December 15, 1963 December 29, 1971, undated
(removed from an Every Day File, not organized alphabetically)
11 Assorted Central Texas photographs (photo nos. 038-043), undated
14 Drafts of "Pursuit of Happiness" speech, undated
Box Folder
4 8 Police report and newspaper photocopies regarding a marijuana party, 1953 April 12-1953 April 17
Recordings Collection Magnetic tape (Barbara's Civil Defense Classes)