Garland Robinette has a self-professed angel on his shoulder. At first, he just suspected she was there. But after the wonderful Cajun couple from Louisiana adopted him at four years old, he figured he must be blessed.
But early on, he feared she might be gone. Asthmatic and without athletic reflexes or the urge to hunt, Robinette was an odd fit for the tough guy culture in which he was reared. Barely, he made it out of high school then, after three colleges he still had earned no diploma.
He found his angel during a 13-month stint in a place called Vietnam. Bad times. Survival was tough, and most of his crew didn’t make it. He did.
The angel seemed to have disappeared after his return home. Day turned into night and weeks into months as he worked as a janitor at a Mississippi river refinery on a depressing overnight shift. She worked hard to get him another job at a very small, one-room local radio station. In addition to the cleaning duties, he was granted permission to announce the weather and introduce the occasional agricultural report.
Her next effort wrote miracles. Due to a series of amazing circumstances, six months later the janitor became the main television news anchor at the New Orleans CBS affiliate WWL-TV. Within months, job offers arrived from New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. He figured the angel was exhausted, so he stayed put for a while longer…..for twenty years.
During that time, he yearned to try his hand at art which had kept him busy when he was indoors and sick as a child. One day, based on sketches he made on his news scripts, angel delivered another miracle, his first portrait commission, the official portrait of Pope John Paul II, during his one and only appearance in New Orleans.
Angels and Demons
At the top of his career he informed the angel that a change was needed….very dangerous indeed. Quit the news? Work for a corporation and then start a business based on crisis communication, with no experience? Open offices in three different continents, and four different countries? She flew the route guiding him to success and retirement.
One year later, David Tyree, a much loved talk show host at WWL radio in New Orleans developed cancer. Tyree needed friends to sub for him on the air during treatment. David called Garland. After losing his dear friend to cancer, Garland went on to host the "Think Tank" on WWL Radio full-time.
On August 28th, 2005 Garland was on the air as Katrina was looming off the Louisiana Coast. After the levees broke, worldwide publicity unfolded during an interview he conducted with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin making a plea to the country for help. That radio signal and a familiar voice was all that many had during the dark days after.
During this exceptionally lucky life his pleas for painting and music were only sporadically granted, but post-Katrina she relented and opened the door. The paintings are coming. No previous lessons, no technique, no preparation. Just a gumbo of beautiful music, oils, brushes, stirred with a roux of adoption, war, television, business, and danger.
His work on the "Think Tank" follows the same design...or lack of design. Garland daily challenges listeners to challenge him, and he has publicly changed his opinions after being persuaded by better facts. In these days of partisan bickering, it's rare indeed to find someone in the spotlight who's willing to admit they don't have all the answers.
At four years old he was right...and the man he has become agrees: Garland Robinette has exceptional luck, and an angel on his shoulder.