Michelle Obama's Mother Marian Robinson Dead at 86

Marian Robinson applauds during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sept. 6, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C.

Marian Robinson, the mother of former first lady Michelle Obama, has died, the former first family announced on Friday, May 31. She was 86.

Though Robinson’s cause of death was not immediately provided, the Obamas said she passed away “peacefully.”

“My mom Marian Robinson was my rock, always there for whatever I needed,” Michelle wrote in a loving tribute shared on Instagram. “She was the same steady backstop for our entire family, and we are heartbroken to share she passed away today.”

Former U.S. President Barack Obama also remembered his mother-in-law in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“There was and will be only one Marian Robinson,” his post said. “In our sadness, we are lifted up by the extraordinary gift of her life. And we will spend the rest of ours trying to live up to her example.”

An obituary credited to Robinson’s two kids, their partners and her six grandchildren remembered her as a person who “had a way of summing up the truths about life in a word or two, maybe a quick phrase that made everyone around her stop and think.”

“Her wisdom came off as almost innate, as something she was born with, but in reality it was hard-earned, fashioned by her deep understanding that the world’s roughest edges could always be sanded down with a little grace,” the obituary continued.

Robinson was born Marian Shields in 1937 to Purnell Shields and Rebecca Jumper as the fourth of seven children. She grew up in Chicago, where she became a teacher and secretary before meeting her husband, Fraser Robinson III, who died in 1991. They shared two children: Michelle and her older brother Craig.

When Barack won the 2008 presidential election, the Obamas convinced Robinson to move with them to help their family of four adjust to life in the White House.

“We needed her. The girls needed her. And she ended up being our rock through it all,” her family reflected.

After the Obamas left the White House in early 2017, Robinson moved back to Chicago, where she spent her final years.

"She passed peacefully this morning,” the family’s obituary said, “and right now, none of us are quite sure how exactly we’ll move on without her.”

Next: Remembering the Stars and Legends We've Lost in 2024