It all started in 1969 when 32-year-old Henry Robinson was asked to run for Port Royal Town Council by members of his church.
"I was so involved in the community and different activities, and I couldn't say no," he said. "I was younger at that time, and full of energy."
That energy, and courage, propelled him to make town history, becoming the first black person to not only run for Town Council but to win a seat.
Two terms and eight years later, he was elected mayor, again making history as the first black to serve in the town's top post. He stayed in the position for 18 years before retiring.
But his retirement didn't last long.
Four years later, he ran for council and again found himself in a seat in Town Hall.
On Wednesday, Robinson cast his final votes as he prepares to step aside for a second retirement from town politics.
His family insisted he take a break, he said.
But Robinson, who is 75, has no intention of disappearing from community life. He is still a board member for the Wardle Family YMCA and is active with the Historic Port Royal Foundation, the Beaufort-Jasper Equal Opportunity Commission and Union Baptist Church.
"I have really appreciated serving the people and the citizens in the town of Port Royal, and I would still like to serve," he said during his farewell speech Wednesday. "If you all would like to appoint me to a board, let me know."
PROUD OF PROGRESS
Robinson was the second of 14 children born to Elizabeth and William Robinson and grew up in a Port Royal that was a fraction of its current size. Before the dozens of annexations in the last several decades, Port Royal extended from downtown to 16th Street and had only one police officer. It now has about two dozen.
In those days, Robinson said, the jail had room for only three inmates, and families, including his, raised chickens and farm animals. Recently, Town Council considered and rejected an ordinance to allow people to keep up to six chickens.
A tailor, Robinson worked for 50 years for the John Demosthenes Co. on Marines Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, where one of his fondest accomplishments was designing and creating dress blues for the base's bulldog mascot.
Over the years, Robinson has also served on the Lowcountry Council of Governments, S.C. Municipal Association board of directors, S.C. Conference of Black Mayors, Robert Smalls Alumni Association, Beaufort County Foster Parents Association and the White House Forum Committee during President Jimmy Carter's administration.
He was married to his first wife, Jane, for 38 years until her death. They had four children.
Robinson is currently married to Linda Jenkins, and they care for foster children.
His daughter, Renee Wallace, was 10 years old when her dad was first elected to Town Council.
"I was very proud of him for getting involved, for taking the initiative to make the town a better place to live," she said. "... It's still a quaint little town, but we have (made) progress."
Her father always found time for the family no matter how much work he had, she said, and would sometimes take his sons and grandchildren with him on business trips.
Robinson's greatest influence on the community came through his newspaper editorials, said Larry Holman, president of the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce.
"I have nothing but respect, total respect for Mr. Robinson," Holman said. "I really admire what he's done to help Port Royal and Beaufort. I really love his writing. I think some of his writings will make you think and draw attention to things that may be controversial or thought-provoking."
Robinson said he's proud he helped keep Port Royal's post office open despite fears it might close. Now, though, he's worried about the office being downsized to one employee.
He's excited about the proposed Port of Port Royal development plan, which he and other Town Council members approved Wednesday.
"I'm really interested in pushing and getting that thing done," he said.
Port Royal Mayor Sam Murray has worked with Robinson for years, and says he deserves a little rest after dedicating so much time to the town.
"I think he has been instrumental in bringing the town together, bringing all sections of town together and working as one, instead of having one side against another," Murray said, especially when it came to the annexations that grew Port Royal in terms of land and residents.
"He has a unique personality and people agree with him and is easy (to work) with."
Murray read a proclamation during Wednesday's meeting, and summed up not just the retiring councilman's accomplishments, but his attributes.
"Henry Robinson, a man of character, strength and integrity has served his family, his community, the Town of Port Royal and its citizens and his God with understanding, diligence and faith," he read.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnPortRoyal.