Oral History Interview with Senator Charles S. Robb

When the George Mason University School of Law (now known as the Antonin Scalia Law School) graduated its first class on August 23, 1980, the featured keynote speaker was then-Lieutenant Governor, Charles S. Robb. Lieutenant Governor Robb spoke for about 20 minutes. Robb began his speech by praising the university and the northern Virginia Delegation to the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates for their persistence in bringing a law school to the area. Mason had worked tirelessly for years in the face of stiff opposition to the creation of a law school associated with the university. The bulk of Robb’s talk stressed the importance of proper training for Virginia’s future attorneys. He expressed his confidence that George Mason would serve the Commonwealth well in this regard.

This speech, which has been broken into two parts, can be seen by following the links below:

This was one of Robb’s initial interactions with George Mason University.

Lieutenant Governor Charles S. Robb speaks at the Dedication and First Commencement of the George Mason University School of Law, August 23, 1980. Screenshot from videotaped recording. George Mason University audiovisual collection #R0136, Box 45.

On June 10, 2019 I and my colleague, Schar School Communications Manager, Buzz McClain (BA ’77) had the opportunity to sit down and speak to Senator Robb in his home in McLean for about 90 minutes. We discussed his life, career, and his association with the university.

The author prepares to interview Senator Charles S. “Chuck” Robb at his home in McLean, VA, June 10, 2019. Photograph by Buzz McClain.

Charles S. “Chuck” Robb was born in Phoenix, Arizona and grew up in northern Virginia. He attended Mt. Vernon High School, and Cornell University before graduating from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He completed officer training in the United States Marines at Quantico before being stationed at the White House. There he met his wife Lynda Johnson, the daughter of President Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. He served in Vietnam before earning his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1973.

He entered politics in 1977, serving first as Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor (1978-1982) and Governor (1982-1986). He later served as a U.S. Senator (Virginia) from 1989-2001.

Governor Robb deposits the very first fare at the opening of the Dulles Toll Road on October 1, 1984. Peter McCandless papers #C0163, Box 6, Folder 3.

George Mason University president Alan Merten, with whom Robb served at the White House in the 1960s, asked him to join George Mason University as a Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy when he left the Senate. He is still a faculty member of Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government and Antonin Scalia Law School.

The 90-minute interview dealt with Robb’s early years up to today. He recounted that early on he had placed a very high importance on obtaining a quality education. Military service in Vietnam, even though he was recently married, was his duty. As a politician, Robb sought to eradicate the last vestiges of segregation in Virginia and improve conditions and pay for the Commonwealth’s teachers. As for George Mason University, Senator Robb expressed that he was “very pleased to have had the opportunity to have been associated with (George Mason University Presidents) Alan Merten and George Johnson”. He added that
 “Mason wanted to establish itself as a standout university and help students who really wanted to get an education. They have done that.”

Senator Charles S. “Chuck” Robb is interviewed at his home in McLean, VA, June 10, 2019. Photograph by Buzz McClain.

The interview is part of the George Mason University Oral History Program collection and is available for viewing in the Special Collections Research Center. To learn more about how to view this interview, please contact SCRC at speccoll@gmu.edu.

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