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.
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
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
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