Darrell “Worsom” Robinson, a veteran photographer who mentored and trained a new generation of photographers while capturing politicians, celebrities, families and iconic events in Chicago for the Chicago Crusader, the Chicago Defender and the Chicago Sun-Times and other news outlets, died on Monday, November 27 at Northwestern Hospital after a long illness.
Schenita “Nita” Thomas, Robinson’s fiancée, confirmed his death.
Thomas said Worsom made his own funeral arrangements in the final months of his life. His funeral will be held December 9 at New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the West Side. Thomas will provide the time of the service later.
Thomas said she will remember the “happy times” she shared with Worsom.
“When I think of him, I get sad. But I always laugh and smile when I remember him telling jokes or saying something inappropriate. But that was just him.”
Robinson had experienced health complications since 2019 after undergoing heart surgery. After the procedure, Robinson couldn’t walk and was unable to return to his active life. He was in and out of Northwestern Hospital and other medical facilities, as he struggled to move on with his life.
In 2021, Robinson launched a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy a special wheelchair to get around, after doctors and health specialists determined he needed one.
At one point, Robinson was on the brink of turning his health around after undergoing rehabilitation at the renowned Shirley Ryan AbilityLab on the near North Side. But the complications returned along with the hospital visits.
During his health struggles, Robinson received moral support from Crusader staff, including this journalist, whose last text message from Robinson was September 21. Robinson texted to say he couldn’t talk and included a photo of himself on a ventilator.
News of Robinson’s death spread after his friend John Hall reported it on Facebook.
“We lost a great one in the photography community, a giant, the one I called the GOAT of photography. I’ll never forget our conversations, and how he was always willing to help and to teach,” Hall said. “It felt so good to post an image, and he had something good to say about it. Worsom Robinson, the GOAT of Photography.”
Chicago Crusader freelance photographer John Alexander, whom Robinson mentored and taught photography, said, “There are so many things to say about Worsom.
“From the beginning of my career at the Chicago Defender, he sent me on my first assignment covering the Chicago Bulls. He fussed a lot, but he was all about quality. He was big and funny, but he was good. I shot President (Barack) Obama with him. His photos were always good. He taught me about lighting, color and framing. We were photographing a Bulls game together, where he said, ‘John, stop running around. The perfect picture is going to come to you. Wait for the moment.’ But he was always a good friend. I’m going to miss him.”
Marcus Robinson (no relation), another Chicago Crusader photographer said, “Worsom was very helpful with other photographers. I remember on an assignment, I asked him did he go to school for photography, he said ‘I didn’t go to no damn school.’ He said this was school, doing this on the street. He wasn’t shy about teaching other photographers about good photography. And he was always helpful.
“One day he wouldn’t let me catch the train because it was too cold. He gave me a ride home. He would never leave you stranded, and you would never go hungry. And he was a great photographer. We lost a great one. If it weren’t for Worsom, I wouldn’t have known about the Chicago Crusader and the Windy City Word. Worsom opened doors for many people and gave us something to follow.”
Chicago Crusader Publisher Dorothy Leavell said, “Worsom was different, unusual, and above all a fighter. He was different in that he did not conform to anything that he did not believe in. In dress, in his profession, and his demeanor he was his own person.
“He was unusual, in that he did not let anything stop him, whether it was travel or just ordinary things of the day, he could be found traveling long distances with a mechanism in his trunk to keep him alive. I was often flabbergasted when I heard from acquaintances that Worsom was in another state and traveling alone.
“Above all, he lived his life as though every day was his last until he was confined by his fight for a good heart. He had a good heart as a person, the physical heart he needed to survive was not good, but he did not give in without a fight. I had the pleasure to have probably one of his last photo shoots in his studio for another publication, that was fun within itself.
“We shall miss Worsom, but I am grateful I had the opportunity to know him and the pleasure he brought to me and so many others.”
The former Chicago Defender President, Michael A. House, said in a statement:
“Worsom was a consummate professional. An expert lensman whose work had appeared in many publications. His photography was exceptional. He had an eye for what was important to capture through his many lenses. His photography always told a story. He loved to shoot events of interest to the Black community. He was dedicated and true to the Black Press. I will miss our many conversations and phone calls over the years, especially during my retirement.
“I will always remember the last time we were together. It was when he visited with Doris and me enroute to his family reunion in Myrtle Beach this year. We had great conversations and lots of laughter that night, many of which I will never forget. Rest in Heaven my friend.”
Born in Chicago on August 24, 1967, Robinson attended Collins High School. Thomas said Worsom being the man that he was, began his career by “taking pictures of girls. Then he met (Chicago Defender photographer) Robert “Bobby” Sengstacke and Worsom started taking sports pictures.”
He became a news photographer working for the Chicago Crusader, Chicago Defender, BET, CNN, Vibe, Jet, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and the New York Times.
In his 30-year career, Robinson photographed President Obama, Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant and numerous fashion models.
On social media, journalist Wendell Hutson said, “You will be missed my brother, and just know you left a positive imprint on everyone you came in contact with. I will cherish our time together working at the Chicago Defender.”
Tamieka Ingram wrote, “Cousin, Worsom Robinson, words cannot express how sad I am to hear of your passing. I already can hear you now saying, ‘girl, what you crying for. I lived….’
“Man, I am who I am because I was lucky to have been in your presence for weddings and many photo shoots. I was so honored that I was the first makeup artist you would call to do your models’ makeup. Your passion for photography was unmatched….”