Charlie Robertson (mayor)

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Charlie Robertson
22nd Mayor of York, Pennsylvania
In office
1994 – January 7, 2002
Preceded byWilliam J. Althaus
Succeeded byJohn S. Brenner
Personal details
Charles H. Robertson

(1934-04-12)April 12, 1934
York, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedAugust 24, 2017(2017-08-24) (aged 83)
York, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Cause of deathCancer
Political partyDemocratic
Children1 son, adopted
EducationWilliam Penn Senior High School
Known forrole in the 1969 York Race Riot
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of servicetwo, in the 1950s

Charles H. Robertson (April 12, 1934 – August 24, 2017)[1] was an American Democratic politician who served as mayor of York, Pennsylvania from 1994 to January 2002. In May 2001, Robertson was charged for a murder during the York race riots in July 1969, but was acquitted in October 2002.[2][3]


Early life and education[edit]

Born and raised in York, Robertson was the youngest of six boys to his parents Milford (Hap, a school janitor) and Margretta;[1][4] when Robertson was 15, his father was robbed and beaten by three black men while walking home from work, to which he attributes his early views regarding race. He graduated in 1952 from William Penn Senior High School in York and spent two years as a medic in the United States Army. Robertson began a 29-year career with the York Police Department in 1962, he regularly mentored children, and parents trusted him, which greatly helped his later involvement in politics.[1]

Political career[edit]

Robertson was elected to the school board in 1975,[1] he first ran for mayor in 1993, and was re-elected in 1997. He was running for a third term in 2001, and had won a tight race (by 48 votes) in the Democratic primary against city councilman Ray Crenshaw[5] only two days before legal charges were brought and Robertson was arrested and put in handcuffs.[1] Crenshaw was the first black man to have run for mayor of York.[5] Robertson did not want to withdraw from the election, though his closest political supporters convinced him to do so "for the betterment of York".[1] Fellow Democrat John S. Brenner was ultimately elected as the next mayor.

Race riot involvement and trial[edit]

Due to its decades-later media coverage, Robertson is most known for his role in the 1969 York Race Riot, while serving as a police officer, he helped to incite the violence by shouting, "White power!" and by allegedly giving white rioters ammunition and encouraging them to, "kill as many niggers as [they] can."[6][7] He was arrested on May 17, 2001, and released on $50,000 bail.[8] On May 27, 2001, Robertson was arraigned on murder charges stemming from his involvement in the riot; he was found not guilty on October 19, 2002.[6] While he admitted that he had shouted the racial slur (calling it "a youthful incident of ingrained police racism"), he steadfastly denied all other charges against him and refused to step down while mayor.[5][9]

Robertson died on August 24, 2017 at Manor Care South in York, Pennsylvania at the age of 83, after being diagnosed with cancer about two years earlier.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bunch, William (September 2, 2001). "Handcuffed By History". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
  2. ^ Joyce, Eileen (August 25, 2017). "The Rundown: Who was Charlie Robertson?". WITF-York Daily Record. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  3. ^ Scolforo, Mark (August 24, 2017). "Ex-York mayor acquitted of 1969 race riot murder dies". Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  4. ^ Allen, Kim (April 20, 2016). "Silent no more: The murder of Lillie Belle Allen". York Daily Record. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Clines, Francis X. (May 17, 2001). "Mayor Says He Expects to Be Charged in 1969 Killing". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
  6. ^ a b "1969 Riot Investigation". York Daily Record. Archived from the original on March 21, 2006. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
  7. ^ Scolforo, Mark (August 25, 2005). "Nearly 300 get call to testify". The York Dispatch. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
  8. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (May 18, 2001), York, Pa., Mayor Is Arrested in 1969 Racial Killing, The New York Times, retrieved December 27, 2008
  9. ^ Longman, Jere (November 1, 2001). "A City Begins to Confront Its Racist Past". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
  10. ^ "Former York Mayor Charlie Robertson, York mayor whose career was derailed for role in 1969 riots, dead at 83". York Daily Record. August 24, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  11. ^ Addy, Jason (August 24, 2017). "Former York City Mayor Charlie Robertson dies at 83; was acquitted of murder in race riots". York Dispatch. Retrieved August 25, 2017.

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