Todd Robins III: Founder, Robins & Morton
Celebrating the Life and Legacy of a Beloved Industry Pioneer
Throughout his life and career, Todd Robins III never shied away from a challenge. In fact, he always seemed to embrace them.
After serving as a Second Lieutenant with the Corps of Engineers, which took him around the world to locations such as England, North Africa and Italy, Robins longed to fulfill his childhood dream of building a skyscraper. With no more than an engineering degree from Virginia Polytechnical Institute in hand and a devoted wife, Dottie, to assist with the bookkeeping, Robins set out to beat the odds and start his own construction company.
Robins Engineering, the company’s first name before it was eventually changed to Robins & Morton, was officially established in 1946 out of a make-shift office in Robins’ home. The company’s first project was modest: an 800-square foot gas station in Birmingham. But thanks to Robins’ business savvy, knowledge and drive to succeed, the company grew steadily and began expanding into much larger projects, including a $4.5 million mini-mill in Kankakee, Illinois, for Kankakee Electric Steel. The project had a six month time requirement to which other contractors would not commit, but that challenge didn’t stop Robins. He was undeterred by the project’s urgency and went on to successfully complete the job on time.
From its humble beginnings in Robins’ home, Robins & Morton has grown into one of the top contractors in the country with offices all over the southeast. To date, the company has completed more than 1,000 projects totaling more than 41 million-square feet in 34 states. But even as the firm has grown over the years, Robins & Morton remains rooted in the very principles by which Robins founded the company: excellence, integrity and commitment—qualities that not only describe the company but also Robins himself. “My dad, Sunshine Morton, went to work for Todd as a concrete superintendent in the early 1950s,” shared Barry Morton, chairman of the board of directors for Robins & Morton. “I also began working for him in 1953 as a laborer then carpenter before I went to Auburn to study Building Science. Todd was always a very kind and generous man. When my dad had a heart attack, Todd covered all of his medical bills and continued to pay his salary during his recovery. That was unheard of in the late 1950s/early 1960s, and his fairness and commitment to taking care of employees was part of what made him a strong leader.”
Although Robins retired from the company in 1992 after leading for 46 years, his legacy lives on at Robins & Morton thanks to his longstanding reputation of fairness, morals and drive to succeed. “Mr. Robins—he was Todd to many but he will always be Mr. Robins to me—was a true southern gentleman whose word was his bond and one who demonstrated throughout his career that doing things correctly the first time was the only way to be truly successful,” said Wayne Gordon, former Robins & Morton COO and current Board of Directors member. Added Jim Johnson, founder and president of Johnson Development and Robins’ son-in-law, “Todd was one of the last of ‘America’s Great Generation,’” he said. “He grew up in the Depression, served in combat in Europe, returned, raised a family and built a sound business from nothing. We all admired him, and he has left a very high values benchmark for his family and the men and women at Robins & Morton.”