LaReeca Rucker has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and her work has appeared in newspapers across the nation. She spent a decade as a features writer and multimedia journalist with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was also a USA TODAY contributor. She is a freelance journalist and support journalism instructor in the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media in Oxford, Mississippi.

Campus mourns Tougaloo student killed in crash

LaReeca Rucker
The Clarion-Ledger

In a third-floor dorm room on the campus of Tougaloo college, decorated with a youthful pink theme and a painting of Audrey Hepburn hanging above her bed, Sacramento native Alexia Pickett was reminded Thursday that adulthood isn't always promised.

Just the other day, like good friends sometimes do, she had gotten miffed at her dear friend Joshua Robinson for something ridiculous and petty, something she could have easily gotten over.

The next day, he was gone — killed in an automobile accident on I-55.

Two fellow students, Ridgeland native Xavier V. Hamilton, a senior art major, and Bay St. Louis native Brennan K. Bell, a senior computer science major, survived but sustained injuries.

"Josh didn't get mad," Pickett said, pausing with tears. "He let stuff go. He was always excited, funny, a class clown, a people person."

Friday, she would have had class with him.

"He made me realize that life is too short to be mad at people," she said. "That did a total 360 on me. You have to learn to forget about things and move on."

Robinson, a sophomore from Chicago Heights, Ill., was widely known throughout the Tougaloo campus as a jovial, good-natured and merry. He was also a wrestler and a political science major who wanted to become an FBI agent. Pickett said his father was a sargeant in the military.

A vigil was held Thursday night at Tougaloo to remember Robinson and pray for the injured students. Danny Jones, who heads public relations for Tougaloo, said the college is requesting prayers for the two injured young men and all three families.

Columbus native Portia Wilson, a sophomore, often saw Robinson hanging out at her dorm.

"He was a really sweet, nice guy," she said. "I cried when I heard about it. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't get my mind to grasp it."

Jackson native Markus Melbin, a senior, had gym class with Robinson.

"Just about everyone on campus knew him," he said. "He was a friendly person, always smiling and laughing. I was very shocked."

Magee native Lacara Warren, a sophomore, said Robinson spoke to everyone.

"He was spontaneous," she said. "He wasn't one of the quiet people. He was one of the people who always tried to make other people happy. He never met a stranger."

Chicago native Alexandria Jones, a sophomore, was also one of his close friends. Introduced to Robinson by a fellow Chicago native, they immediately hit it off.

"The first day I met him, he was just cool, laid back," she said.

Thursday, she sat in Pickett's dorm room trying to come to terms with the loss of her friend.

"When I first got here, I used to be with him every day," she said. "He was always taking us places and showing us stuff, cooking, or I'd cook for him."

Tacos were his specialty.

Jones often teased him about sucking his thumb, a nervous habit he'd developed to keep calm.

"I really didn't believe it," she said. "It's like you see a person every day, and then you blink your eyes twice, wake up and they are gone."


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