Johnny Robinson and The Bottle Tree

Many of those who are reading this post have read The Bottle Tree and may already know the story of Johnny Robinson but I'm going to repeat it here anyway and then discuss what the post is really about.

Johnny was a young man I went to school with at Provencal School in Louisiana. I went there from Kindergarten through Second Grade and then went back to visit anytime I was in Louisiana and school was in session. 

Johnny was my first African American friend and I'm pretty sure that the friendship with him when I was young made race much less of an issue with me than it was with many of my peers.

I hadn't seen him in years but when I started writing The Bottle Tree I named one of the main characters after Johnny. Last year when the book was published I started looking for him so I could let him know what I'd done and just to reconnect.

Unfortunately, another childhood friend of mine let me know that Johnny had passed away from cancer the year before.

This trip in for the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival, I came in early so I'd have a chance to go by and take a copy of the book to his mother. Doris Robinson.

Ms. Doris still lives in the same house where Johnny was raised and I made the trip today to visit with her for a little while. She told me all about Johnny's life since he'd graduated and about his last days. I also learned it was her birthday today. I was happy to present her a copy of The Bottle Tree and will make it a point to go back and see her when I come back "home" to Natchitoches.

Below is a picture of Ms. Doris Robinson and me, sitting on her front porch and she has her copy of The Bottle Tree in her hand. The other picture is the memorial handout from Johnny's funeral.

This comes the week after the verdict in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case and I can't help but think maybe things would have been different if Mr. Zimmerman and/or Mr. Martin would have had the chance to get to know each other in a situation like Johnny and I did.


Doris Robinson and Robert D. Bennett johnny robinson

5 thoughts on “Johnny Robinson and The Bottle Tree

  1. What an uplifting post.  The timing of it couldn't be at a better time.  I am sure she so appreciated your kindness and thinking of her son.  What a nice tribute

  2. Thank you, Mr. Bennett for this very kind tribute to my late husband and for giving my daughter, Amber, an opportunity to see how one person can touch another's heart and life.  That person doesn't have to be anyone wealthy or famous, just genuinely kind, which is what Johnny was.  I haven't read the book yet, but can't wait to get a copy and get started.  We miss him everyday, but we know he is with the One he lived his life serving, Jesus, and therefore in a much better place.  We look forward to the day when we'll be able to laugh and talk with him again.  Thank you again, for this very lovely tribute and for blessing Mama Doris and all of Johnny's family with your visit, your tribute and your time.

  3. It is so good to hear from you. If you will send your mailing address to my email,, I would be honored to send a copy of the book to you and to your daughter. I only wish I could have talked to Johnny before he passed and let him know what an effect just having him as a friend when I was young had on me. I greatly enjoyed my visit with Miss Doris and hope to get by to see her again soon. Too often we put off visiting or contacting someone saying “I’ll do it next time” and one day you found out you waited too long.

  4. You are so right, Mr. Bennett.  Procrastination is not a good thing.  Amber and I spent quite a bit of time talking about her Dad's life last night and how wonderful it must have been to grow up with friends who never forget how you touch their lives.  It was all because of you and I cannot say thank you enough.

    Amber will be 17 years old next month and this book will be a great birthday gift for her.  I truly appreciate your offering to send it to us.  And if you are ever in Fort Mill, South Carolina please know you are welcome in our home.

  5. I will get those in the mail to you tomorrow. Let me know when you are coming down to visit Miss Doris and if there is anyway I can go by there I will. I’ll also give you a yell if we ever head in that direction.

Comments are closed.