Ruby Callaway Robinson, 81: Early substance abuse prevention advocate in S.W. Atlanta

When Ruby Callaway couldn’t find what she was looking for, she designed what she needed. And though CASCADE Inc. came too late to help her first husband, she hoped it would be right on time for other families.

A substance abuse and prevention organization established in 1980, the Comprehensive Auxiliary for the Southwest Community on Alcohol and Drug Education, or CASCADE, was the result of Callaway’s struggle with her husband’s alcoholism.

“He died in 1974, and back then they hadn’t yet really labeled alcoholism as a disease, so she had trouble finding help for him,” said the couple’s daughter Kristia “Trekie” Simon of Atlanta. “So she started doing research and asking questions in order to help others.”

Callaway, who was married to Ray Robinson for six years before he died in 1993, spent the rest of her life advocating for awareness of alcohol and drug abuse, and its prevention.

“She tried to make a difference,” said Atlanta City Councilman C.T. Martin, a longtime friend and supporter. “She always believed in working on tangible things. She wasn’t full of hype and PR kinds of things, but she wanted results. She was very courageous.”

Ruby Ferrell Callaway Robinson, of Atlanta, died June 16 at Piedmont Hospital from complications of septic shock. She was 81.

A funeral was held Saturday at Hoosier Memorial United Methodist Church, Atlanta, and burial followed at Greenwood Cemetery. Murray Brothers, Cascade Chapel, was in charge of arrangements.

Born and reared in Albany, Robinson came to Atlanta with her then-husband, Thomas Callaway. The couple, who married when she was 17, raised a family of five children. The couple was married for 25 years when Thomas Callaway, a disabled veteran, died from cirrhosis of the liver, their daughter Simon said.

Robinson briefly attended college before she married, and she returned in her later years and earned a licensed practical nurse degree from then-Atlanta Area Technical College, her daughter said. While working as a private-duty nurse, she began piecing together what would become CASCADE Inc. Once the organization was ready, its offices were housed at Hoosier Memorial UMC, where Robinson was also an active member. She ran CASCADE for 10 years before she became the director of community development for Atlanta Prevention Connection, a 5-year-old federal program.

“We came to realize this work was her passion,” Simon said of her mother’s activism. “She put all she had into everything she did.”

In addition to Simon, Robinson is survived by sons Thomas “Vint” Callaway of Jonesboro and James “Ricky” Callaway of East Point; a second daughter, Audrey Graham of Ellenwood; a sister, Rosa Washington of Conyers; 11 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.