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15926 Dobbs, Robert Lee
October 13, 1922 - April 02, 1986



Published Assembly Mar '90

Robert Lee Dobbs No.15926 Class of 1946

Died 2 April 1986 in Altus Oklahoma, aged 63
Interment: Fort Bliss National Cemetery, Fort Bliss, Texas

Robert Lee Dobbs, known to his friends and family as Bobby, was born 13 October 1922 at Munday, Texas. After graduating from high school in Frederick, Oklahoma, Bobby entered Tulsa University in 1941. A superb high school football player, he played fullback at Tulsa and participated with Tulsa in the 1943 Sugar Bowl. With the country involved in World War II, Bobby's intense patriotism, plus his desire to become a pilot and to play football, led him to West Point. He joined the then Army Air Corps in early 1943 and was able to obtain an appointment to join the Class of 1946 as it entered on 1 July 1943.

Bobby's two years at Tulsa, plus his time in the Army Air Corps, made his transition to cadet life not too difficult. His athletic ability resulted in letters in football and basketball. He also boxed his first class year. Bobby was the starting fullback on the great 1944 Army team. Bobby realized one of his ambitions when he opted for flight training first class year and received his wings June Week.

Following graduation, Bobby took transition training at Enid Air Force Base, Oklahoma. While at Enid, Bobby married Joanne Meeks in Frederick, Oklahoma on 8 July 1947. His first assignment after Enid was to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. In 1949 he was assigned to Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. There he coached the Carswell Football Team to the Armed Forces Championship. In 1952 Colonel Earl (Red) Blaik brought Bobby back to West Point to serve as an assistant football coach. Also on the Army coaching staff at the same time was Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. So, during his tour at West Point Bobby was learning under two of the most brilliant football minds the sport has ever known. In 1955, Tulsa University, where Bobby had played before West Point, offered him the head football coaching job. Bobby accepted and resigned from the Air Force. He went to Tulsa to take over a team with the school's worst ever record of 0-11 in 1954. This was to be the start of an eighteen year coaching career that would see him rebuild three different teams. Amid speculation that Tulsa would be forced to drop football, Bobby quickly rebuilt the program into respectability. Tulsa posted a 7-2-1 record in 1956, and 7-3 in 1958. These successes prompted Army to consider Bobby as a replacement for Red Blaik. It didn't happen then, but Bobby's dream was to become head coach at West Point. Tulsa's most significant victories while he was coach were over Oklahoma State, 24-16 in 1958 when the Cowboys were unbeaten, and North Texas State, 17-6 in 1959 when the Eagles had Abner Hayes and were unbeaten and ranked tenth nationally. These achievements came through brilliant strategy, not talented players.

In 1961, Bobby left Tulsa to take on another rebuilding job. This time for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. He was replaced at Tulsa by his brother Glenn. Bill Connors, sports editor of the Tulsa World wrote of Bobby's leaving Tulsa, "Dobbs was a straight arrow with impeccable habits. He was cautious, but when he said something, you could take it to the bank. He was a wonderful representative of the school and there was never a hint of scandal, on or off the field, in his six years. However, TU and Bobby Dobbs were not suited to having a coaching marriage. He was an X and 0 coach who loved to spend his time in the film room, studying opponents and devising plans to improve his team. He brought a West Point style to a school that needed a promoter. Glenn Dobbs was more successful at TU than his brother because of his promotional talents. But Glenn said then and now that Bobby had the football brains. He was like Coach Henry Frnka (who coached the Dobbs brothers at Tulsa) in that he was ahead of his time." After four highly successful years in Canada, Bobby resigned at the con-clusion of the 1964 season. He felt that he had been slighted by Calgary's decision to elevate his former assistant to general manager. He made no threats, did no name calling. He resigned at the team banquet and did not respond to a request to reconsider. Bill Connors, the Tulsa World sports editor, said of Bobby, "All principle and no fluff."

The Texas Western Miners of El Paso had posted a dismal 0-8-2 record in 1964. No wonder then that they called on Bobby Dobbs to perform his miracles for them. In his first year as their coach, the Miners blasted North Texas State 61-15. All El Pasoans were stunned by this dramatic turn around. It was not a fluke. In his first three years, his record was 21-9 and his teams defeated Texas Christian and Mississippi in the Sun Bowl. It was evident that Bobby was ahead of his time. His pro-style passing attack caught everyone by surprise. His defensive genius was obscured by offense, but other coaches noticed. When the Miners heat Mississippi 14-7 in the Sun Bowl after the 1967 season, Mississippi coach Johnny Vaught remarked, "I'd heard all about the Miners offense, but no one told me about their defense." Bobby's coaching ability was not unnoticed by the coaches in the National Football League. While at Texas West-ern, he sent many players into the pro ranks with quite a few going to Green Bay to play for Vince Lombardi. At one point Bobby ranked second among college coaches in number of players going in the National Football League. In 1972, Bobby said that if his team didn't beat the University of New Mexico, he would resign. His team was 1-5 at the time. The team lost and Bobby resigned. He went into the construction business in El Paso until his health started to fail in 1978.

Bobby was proud of being a West Pointer and always looked and acted the part. Sports writers described him as standing 6 foot 2 and straight as an ar-row. "He was the general." said Billy Stevens, the Miners quarterback from 1964-67. Bobby never had the opportunity to coach where resources and talent were readily available. He was destined to take over depressed teams and bring them back to respectability. In 1965, after his initial success at Texas Western, Bobby had the opportunity to make his fondest dream come true. He was offered the head coaching job at West Point. At the time, his wife Joanne had a very serious illness and they were advised not to leave the warm climate in El Paso. So Bobby turned down the chance to become head coach at USMA. It almost broke Joanne's heart to be the reason for this painful decision; but although Bobby loved football, his love for his family was unsurpassed.

Bobby seemed so intense and serious to others that few knew of his great sense of humor. He knew when to laugh and how to get the most out of life. He was extremely proud of his three children: Lieutenant Colonel John Robert Dobbs, US Air Force; Suzanne Wiggs; and Michael Lee Dobbs. He was thankful that he lived long enough to see and enjoy two of his grandchildren. Bobby's failing health turned out to be Alzheimer's disease, and he died on 2 April 1986 in a nursing home in Altus, Oklahoma.

"Bobby Dobbs was a class man and a great coach." "He's the best coach I was ever around." These are just some of the comments of Bobby's friends in the athletic world. Shortly after Bobby's death, a West Point graduate who played "B" squad football for Bobby when he coached at West Point, was staying overnight at a hotel and saw an article in Tulsa World on Bobby. This graduate wrote the paper with the following comments: "He was the kind of person you never miss until he's not there. His values and standards as an individual were indeed hard to match. It's too bad he didn't coach at Army in the '60s--I think he would have done well in the won and lost column-but most important, he would have taught values of self esteem which are so often missing." To this we can only add, "Well Done, Bobby." We are proud to have been your classmates and friends.

'46 Memorial Project and his wife Joanne
Personal Eulogy


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