Joe Robbie

Joe Robbie

Joe Robbie
Born (1916-07-17)July 17, 1916
Sisseton, South Dakota, United States
Died January 7, 1990(1990-01-07) (aged 73)
Nationality American
Alma mater Northern State University
University of South Dakota School of Law
Occupation Lawyer
Known for First owner of the Miami Dolphins
Net worth $100 million (at death)
Spouse(s) Elizabeth, 1942-1990 (his death)
Children 11

Joseph "Joe" Robbie (July 7, 1916 – January 7, 1990) was an American entrepreneur, politician and lawyer.


  • Early life 1
  • Politics 2
  • Football 3
  • Honors and awards 4
  • References 5

Early life

Robbie was raised in Sisseton, South Dakota, the second of five children. His father was a Lebanese immigrant and restaurant manager; his mother was a baker and the daughter of Irish immigrants.[1] He was raised Catholic.[2]

In 1934, during the Great Depression, Robbie dropped out of high school to work as a lumberjack for the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Black Hills, sending $25 of his $30 monthly earnings home to his family. After completing his high school education in 1936, Robbie enrolled at Northern State Teachers College on a debating scholarship.[1] After three years, he transferred to the University of South Dakota.[2] Robbie met his future wife, Elizabeth, while he was a senior at the school and she was a freshman. The couple was married two years later.[1]

Robbie enlisted in the Navy on the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Robbie saw substantial action in the Pacific theater and was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. After his discharge, he used the G.I. Bill to return to South Dakota as a law student.[1]


Following his graduation from law school, Robbie worked as a deputy state's attorney and a professor of economics at Dakota Wesleyan University.[3] In 1948, at 33 years old, Robbie entered politics. He was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives as a Democrat.[1] In 1950, he ran for Governor of South Dakota but lost to Sigurd Anderson.[2] The following year, Robbie and his family moved to Minneapolis at the encouragement of then-mayor Hubert H. Humphrey.[1]

His political and business careers further developed in Minnesota. In addition to operating his own law firm, Robbie served as regional counsel for the Office of Price Stabilization in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.[4] He was also a charter member of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Commission and chairman of the Minnesota Municipal Commission.[5] In addition to working on Humphrey's political campaigns, Robbie represented Minnesota's 5th congressional district at the 1960 Democratic National Convention.[2][6]

Robbie also worked as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry from the 1960s until his death. In 1963, he appeared before the United States Senate to voice opposition to a bill which would have regulated tobacco advertising.[7] From 1971 until 1989, he was the head of the Minnesota Candy & Tobacco Distributors Association.[8]


When the Minnesota Vikings were added to the American Football League (AFL) in 1961, Robbie began attending games at Metropolitan Stadium for $5 per game. In March 1965, Joe Foss, the commissioner of the AFL, met with Robbie in Washington, D.C.. Foss attended the University of South Dakota and served in the Navy with Robbie. Foss recommended that Robbie look into Miami as a potential site for an expansion franchise. Robbie formed a partnership with comedian Danny Thomas, a fellow Lebanese-American, and raised the $7.5 million expansion fee.[1]

When the Miami Dolphins took the field in 1966, Robbie was its first owner. Coached by Don Shula, Robbie's Dolphins achieved a perfect season (17–0) in 1972 and two consecutive Super Bowl wins. Additionally, he built the US$115 million Joe Robbie Stadium (1987–1996) with private funds in 1987. It was later renamed Pro Player Park (1996), then Pro Player Stadium (1996–2005), then Dolphins Stadium (2005–2006), then Dolphin Stadium (2006–2009; 2010), then LandShark Stadium (2009–2010) and is now called Sun Life Stadium (2010–present).

Robbie had a small part playing himself in the film Black Sunday, in which he is interviewed about security for Super Bowl X (1976).

Robbie also owned the Miami Toros and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (later the Minnesota Strikers) soccer teams of the North American Soccer League. Joe Robbie Stadium was one of the first major stadiums in the US designed with soccer in mind.

Honors and awards

For his contributions to the Miami Dolphins, and being the founder of the team, Joe Robbie became the inaugural inductee into The Miami Dolphin Honor Roll on September 16, 1990 (eight months after his death).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lynch, Ray (January 9, 1990). "A Man Of Perfection Joe Robbie Had A Fire That Warmed Many And Burned A Few, Says Danny Thomas.".  
  2. ^ a b c d Connelly, Michael; Hill, Bob (August 16, 1987). "A Dream Fulfilled Joe Robbie Was Told By Many People That There Was No Way He Would Be Able To Build A Stadium For His Professional Football Team. Joe Robbie Stadium Opens Tonight.".  
  3. ^ "Joseph Robbie, Jr., Will Address Carroll Students".  
  4. ^ "Grocery Price Test in Fargo Held Success".  
  5. ^ Millman, Joel (December 1986). "Miami Blitz".  
  6. ^ "Minnesota Delegation to the 1960 Democratic National Convention".  
  7. ^ "Cigarette Ad Ban Bill Favored".  
  8. ^ "The Joseph Robbie Page". Smokers History. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
Preceded by
first owner
Miami Dolphins Principal Owner
Succeeded by
Wayne Huizenga