George Dexter Robinson
Painting: by Daniel J. Strain, 1900

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1884-1887

A long-time Congressman and three-term Governor, George Dexter Robinson is perhaps best remembered for his legal work which followed his public service. In 1892, Robinson accepted a hefty twenty-five thousand dollar retainer to serve as defense council to accused murderer Elizabeth (Lizzie) Borden.

After earning an undergraduate degree at Harvard College, Robinson served as a high school principal in Chicopee. He returned to pursue masters degree studies as Harvard, then studied the law for nine years with his brother before being admitted to the bar in 1866. Robinson practiced law in Chicopee, briefly representing that locality in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1874) and Senate (1876). He won a Congressional seat as a Republican in 1877, which he held until he resigned to serve as Massachusetts Governor in 1884.

By the time he was Governor, Robinson was a skilled parliamentarian. His executive accomplishments include fiscal restraint, paired with numerous attempts to reconcile the interests of powerful corporations and less powerful working people. Robinson proposed successful legislation to extend free public education to every student by requiring that textbooks be provided to each student, free of charge. He also created a requirement that corporations pay workers weekly and established the Commonwealth's first State Board of Arbitration to resolve disputed between workers and employers.

After serving as Governor, Robinson won wide popular fame as a lawyer by his skillful defense of Lizzie Borden, and he occupied a prominent place in the Hampden county and Massachusetts bar for many years.