Robert Lewis


Degree(s): BJ '51

Whereabouts: United States, Farmington, Missouri

Give us a summary of your career.
I was hired by the Topeka (Kan.) State Journal upon graduation in 1951 to replace a reporter who had been called by the U.S. Navy to the Korean War. After I was on the job, his orders were revoked. So, I then found employment as a reporter/photographer for the Fort Scott (Kan.) Tribune. I worked there for two years and became managing editor. However, with a family, I found I did not have enough income. Regretfully, I left the journalism field and found employment with my father’s retail firm in Farmington, Mo. I worked there until 1976 when I was hired as vice president of a local bank. I retired from there at the end of 1987. Upon retirement, I volunteered to work as a naturalist in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, where I worked for three summers. In 1993 I became a naturalist for St. Francois State Park in Missouri, where I worked for 13 summers. During these years I wrote for local newspapers, often for little or no payment. I now edit and publish a bi-monthly newsletter for a six-county Audubon chapter, BIRD’S EYE VIEW.

What is the best professional lesson you learned at the J-School?
Accuracy and honesty.

What advice do you have for current students?
Besides needing a talent for telling a story, you must constantly sharpen up your grammar. Anything less than grammatical perfection will not be tolerated.

What is your favorite J-School memory?
While covering magistrate court in the Boone County courthouse, I witnessed a trial where a man was accused of stealing a dog. With a sharp defense attorney, the man was acquitted. After the trial, a very old man approached the attorney and said, “Mr. Ed Orr, I’d like to shake your hand.” As Mr. Orr reached out his hand, the old gentleman said, “I might like to steal a dog some day.”

What is your J-School claim to fame?
My J-School claim to fame was covering President Truman when he appeared on campus for the June 1950 graduation. Just as he rose to speak at Faurot Field, the heavens opened up and a deluge fell on all the graduates and their families. I was with the White House Press Corps bus and ran back to board the bus when my photographer told me she had left her camera bag back on the table. I retrieved it, and on the way back to the bus I stopped and shook hands with President Truman, who was graciously shaking hands with grads. Later he received an honorary doctorate in the hallway of Jesse Hall. When he boarded the train to leave Columbia, he held up our Missourian with our story.

Last thoughts?
The field of journalism has certainly expanded during the half century since I was in school. We had news, advertising and radio journalism. In 2008, a graduate can choose journalism in television or almost any other field, including those related to the computer world.

Updated: November 9, 2011