As a San Francisco attorney in the 1920s, Lloyd McCullough Robbins took on a case that was a family matter. The case centered upon his mother’s right to be taxed on the California estate she inherited from her husband according to the community property laws that were the state’s legacy from its history as a part of Spain. Robbins argued the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court and in doing so sparked a lifelong interest in legal history. In advocating for the adoption of a vested interest doctrine in community property, he assembled a collection of rare civil and canon law books that he ultimately donated to UC Berkeley School of Law’s G.W. McEnerney Law Library. In 1952, he gave to the school a magnificent gift to establish the Reuel Drinkwater and Saditha McCullough Robbins Collection in religious and civil law in honor of his parents. His purpose was to maintain and build upon the collection he had given to the University and provide the basis for what is today an internationally recognized center for studies in ancient and modern legal culture and comparative research in the fields of civil and religious law.
Mr. Robbins’ intellectual curiosity extended not only to the practice of law but to a number of related fields and pursuits. He graduated from Berkeley in 1897 and attended Hastings College of the Law (which was at that time the state’s only law school and not yet affiliated with the University of California). He was a member of both the San Francisco and New York bars, and he served as assistant attorney general of Hawaii. After World War I, Robbins served as chief financial advisor of the United States delegation to the Reparations Commission in Paris. In 1936, tempted by politics, he ran as a Democrat for a seat in the State Senate. At the request of the California State Bar, in 1940 Robbins published a volume on Spanish community property law that included translations of the commentaries of Spanish jurists Matienzo (1597), Azevedo (1597), and Gutierrez (1606).
Reuel and Saditha Robbins established themselves as prominent Solano County ranchers with sizeable property holdings. Lloyd Robbins followed in his father’s footsteps, and when he retired from legal practice, he devoted his energies to cattle ranching and fruit farming on his Solano County and Suisun Valley properties until his death in 1955. A leader in his local community, he was also a devoted and active member of the Episcopal Church and was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Sacramento in 1944.
In recognition of his interest in the law school, Mr. Robbins was given the honorary position of lecturer and consultant in canon law in 1951. He passed away in 1955, leaving his estate to his wife, Beatrice Clayton Robbins. Like her husband, Mrs. Robbins attended UC Berkeley. A descendant of two pioneer California families, she attended the San Francisco Theological Seminary and served as a social worker for the Presbyterian Church in California and Maryland. She died in 1969, leaving the estate she had inherited from Lloyd Robbins to the Robbins Collection.
Lloyd M. Robbins firmly believed that the goals of an academic institution should encompass scholarship and education. The location of the Robbins Collection at UC Berkeley School of Law, one of the leading law schools in the United States, greatly enhances the educational aspect of its mission. The combination of the library and the scholarly resources with a first-rate law faculty provides unique educational opportunities for students interested in comparative and historical approaches to law.
The independence of the Robbins fund, secured by the generous donation made by Lloyd M. and Beatrice Clayton Robbins, allows for the continuous expansion of the Collection in all its aspects. For the past twenty years, the Collection has successfully built on its solid foundation to realize more comprehensively Lloyd M. Robbins’s vision by developing a unique center for scholarly research and study. Its current success is a significant step toward the realization of this goal and an encouraging promise of its future growth and further development.