Robert William Richmond


Robert William Richmond, a Topeka resident, died peacefully on Friday, May 29, 2020.  He was 92.  Mr. Richmond was born on July 21, 1927, in Stockton, KS, the son of Emmett and Janet Richmond.  He spent his childhood in Wellington, KS.  He   graduated from Wellington High School in 1944.  After beginning his studies at Washburn University, he served two years in the Army.  He was stationed at Fort Lawton in Seattle and was spared duty in the Aleutians when a fellow soldier in his company informed their sergeant that Bob was a fast typist.  Apparently, soldiers with typing skills were in short supply and the Army saw greater value in his administrative service in Seattle than it did in his infantry service in the Alaskan Theatre. He returned to Washburn, graduating in 1950 with a B.A. in History, and continued his education at the University of Nebraska, earning an M.A. in History in 1951. 

His areas of greatest expertise included the histories of Kansas and of the American West. He was the first State Archivist of Nebraska, employed by the Nebraska Historical Society.  In 1952, he joined the Kansas State Historical Society as State Archivist.  He remained as the State Archivist until 1977, when he became Assistant Executive Director and Treasurer of the Society.  He remained Assistant Executive Director and Treasurer until his retirement in 1988.

In 1950, Mr. Richmond married Mary Belle Tillotson, a native Topekan and Washburn alumna.  A student of history in her own right, she was awarded an M.A. in English History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She died of cancer in April 1967.  In January 1968, he married his high school sweetheart, Nel Frances Lindner, then of Garden City.  She preceded him in death in February 2016.

          While at Washburn, Mr. Richmond was a member of the International Relations Club, Men’s Choir, Student Council, and served as sports editor for the Washburn Review.  Most enduringly, he was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and remained active in the Gamma Nu Chapter as a Washburn alumnus.  In later years, he was honored by his chapter as Man of the Year.  As an alumnus, he also became a member of Sagamore and Phi Alpha Theta.

          He was proud of his service as a member of the Washburn Alumni Association and as a founder of the Friends of Mabee Library. He served on the boards of both organizations and was president of the Friends of Mabee Library.  In 1997, the Alumni Association presented him with its Distinguished Service Award and in 2011, Washburn honored him with a Doctorate of Public Service.

          Mr. Richmond was an adjunct instructor of History for approximately 40 years, teaching at Washburn (39 years), Emporia State University, Baker University, and Johnson County Community College.  In 1973, he was Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.  In 1991, he was the Scholar-in-Residence at the Johnson County Museum. He was a popular public speaker, and a scholar and writer of note.  His books include Kansas: A Land of Contrasts (still available in its fourth printing); Kansas: A Pictorial History; To Shine the Light: A Centennial History of the Kansas Library Association; Kansas in Newspapers; and A Nation Moving West: Readings in the History of the American Frontier.  The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas commissioned him to write biographies of three distinguished judges: Earl O’Connor, Dale Saffels, and Arthur Stanley, Jr. His scholarly and popular journal articles are too numerous to list.

          Over the course of his long and exceptional career, Mr. Richmond offered his guidance and energy to many Topeka and Northeast Kansas organizations, including the Fortnightly Literary Club, Topeka Press Club, Friends of the Topeka and Shawnee County Library, the Topeka Symphony Society (he was for many years a member of the Topeka Symphony Chorus), and the Kansas Center for the Book.  He devoted long years of service to the Shawnee County Historical Society, including serving as its president and co-editing the Society’s Bulletin.  And he became a charter member of the Friends of Cedar Crest board of directors.

          Mr. Richmond was an avid supporter of libraries, and was honored by the Kansas Library Association and the Friends of Kansas Libraries.  Additionally, he was a member of the Kansas State Library Commission.  In his spare time, he was an active member of the Kansas Committee for the Humanities, the Frontier Army Museum at Fort Leavenworth, Regional Advisory Council for the National Archives, and Western History Association, and helped create the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.  The Kansas History Teachers Association was delighted to call him an officer (including president) of that association for many years. More recently, he served as an Elder of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Topeka, where he and Nel worshipped and had many friends. 

          From 1985-1986, he served as president of the American Association for State and Local History.  He was set to receive the national Award of Distinction from the AASLH in September of 2001.  When he arrived in Indianapolis for the event, however, there was no event and no award because of 9/11. He was pleased to receive his due the following year.

          One Topekan referred to Robert Richmond as a walking dictionary of Kansas history.  The words that appear repeatedly in comments from his former students are “passion” and “passionate”—about history, of course, and particularly the history of his beloved home state.  He always believed that there was something unique about Kansans, and that one Kansan could pick out another Kansan in a crowd, no matter how far away from home any given Jayhawker might be. In recent years, he made enjoyable trips to the Arikaree Breaks in Cheyenne County and to the Red Hills along the southern border of the state with his sons to see the only places in Kansas that he apparently had never visited.  

          Mr. Richmond is survived by sons John (Barbara) Richmond; Douglas Richmond; John Lindner; daughter Catherine (Kenneth) Wasinger; six grandchildren, Samuel (Lauren) Lindner, Theodore Lindner, Thomas Lindner, Benjamin Lindner, Joseph Wasinger, and Eric Richmond; and two great-grandchildren, Jack and Audrey Lindner. He was preceded in death by his parents; two wives; an infant son from his first marriage; and son, Peter (Dawn) Lindner, from his second marriage.  Two cousins, Patricia (Richard) Schroder and Roma L. (Bob) Felible, also survive, as do two nieces, Elizabeth Ensley Deiter and Alexandra Chappell, and a nephew, Charles Ragsdale.

          A celebration of Mr. Richmond’s life will be held at a later date.  Memorials may be made to Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1275 Boswell Ave., Topeka, KS 66604; Friends of Mabee Library, c/o Washburn University Foundation, 1729 S.W. MacVicar Ave., Topeka, KS 66604; Kansas Historical Foundation (a supporting entity of the Kansas State Historical Society), 6425 S.W. 6th Ave., Topeka, KS 66615; the American Association for State and Local History, 2021 21st Ave. S., Suite 320, Nashville, TN 37212; or the Gamma Nu Chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, c/o Brett Johnson, Washburn University, 1700 S.W. College Ave., Topeka, KS 66621.

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