Judge Jimmy Don Robinson says his ancestors came to Kentucky from Ireland in the 1840’s with an intense love for two things: land and horses. Over the years, the land in Ballard County that eventually became Eagle Rest Plantation has seen horses, cattle, pigs, mules, donkeys, and all sorts of crops. Some day in the future, ag students will be studying crops and livestock there, and the home that Judge Robinson built for his wife will remain intact.
Eagle Rest is being gifted to Murray State University. When Judge Robinson dies, all 534 acres and two homes will go to Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture.
That’s a far cry from the judge’s original decree. “I built the house for Charlene,” he says. “I always told her, if anything ever happens to you, I’m going to destroy the house, salt the land, shut the gates, and find a war somewhere and get my commission back.” Before she lost her battle with cancer in 2006, Charlene convinced him there was a better way.
“She just had a natural knack for helping people,” he says. She helped him set the course for his career when the two were pre-med students nearly 60 years ago. “She thought two doctors made for a bad marriage, too much professional jealousy and all,” he remembers. “But she said ‘I could love a lawyer."
Robinson became a good one, eventually elected to District Judge in 1978. He served there until retiring from the bench in 1996. Charlene, meanwhile, became a respected and beloved doctor with practices first in Mayfield and then in Barlow. “She wanted her own family practice, she wanted to marry a lawyer, she wanted to live on a farm,” he says with tears in his eyes. “Very few people realize their dreams so I’d say we were very lucky.”
The Robinsons wanted children “but it just didn’t work out that way,” he says. “She said that if she’d had kids, she couldn’t have taken care of the thousands of children that she did (as a doctor) so she regarded them as her children.”
Dr. Robinson had three “plans” after retirement, according to Dawn Bergeron, a long-time assistant to the Robinsons: a not-for-profit grocery service for senior citizens with an emphasis on proper nutrition, free physicals and in-season check-ups for kids who play sports, and a bed-and-breakfast at Eagle Rest. Cancer stopped those dreams, and now Judge Robinson is fighting his own battles. “I got lymphoma cancer and now I have prostate cancer,” he says. “Plus I’m diabetic. I could go on and on. But I feel good, you know. I’ve got a chance, I don’t know how much of a chance.”
He does know his plan is in place, and his beloved wife would approve. “I’m just happy we got the things done that she wanted done,” he says through more tears. “She was my whole life.”
Robinson says he originally contacted the University of Kentucky (he and Charlene both went to UK) but with an agricultural research center already established in Princeton, the school offered no guarantees for future plans for Eagle Rest. “It’s been the showplace of the county for years,” the judge says, “and I want it to stay pristine.” Murray State said in a statement that it “will be forever grateful to Judge Jimmy Don Robinson and the late Dr. Charlene Robinson for their vision and generosity as this gift will benefit Ballard County, the Hutson School of Agriculture, students, faculty and staff, agricultural research and numerous agricultural interests throughout the region and state.”
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