Volume 37 , Number 3 , Winter 1998
Bob Gilmore, former president of the White River Valley Historical Society, passed away late last fall at the age of 70. He left a remarkable record of optimism and encouragement for many organizations in whatever community setting was a part of his life. Our own Society was a direct beneficiary of his wisdom and guidance for years.
Some of our members who live around the country knew Bob only as a capable officer in our common goals. Those of us closer to home knew him as a Friend of the Ozarks who never quit thinking and dreaming about the Ozarks. Bob was a native of Greene County, reared on a farm near Ash Grove. As a young man he became a World War II naval veteran and in 1949 graduated from SMSU when it was known as a teachers college. He moved on to St. Louis where he taught at Webster Groves and in the metro area for eight years and earned a masters degree from St. Louis University Still interested in higher education, Bob received a Ph.D. in speech and theater from the University of Minnesota.
Bob was the quintessential outgoing Ozarker. When he returned to his alma mater at SMSU in 1959 he kept theater and public performance in his mind as a subject of historical and contemporary interest. In 1961 Bob and Irene Coger piloted a new projectTent Theater. Musicals and comedies were more comfortable in the outside summer air than inside an un-airconditioned building. Students eagerly participated, audiences filled the seats, and summer theater at SMSU became an institution in itself.
Gilmore, the professor, became department head of speech and theater, dean of Arts and Humanities, and from 1971 to 1984, Provost of the University. While completing his tenure as chief academic officer at SMSU, Bob published Ozark Baptizings, Hangings, and Other Diversions: Theatrical Folk ways of Rural Missouri, 1885-1910, a polished version of his dissertation, with the University of Oklahoma Press, 1984. This generational study set in the southwest Missouri Ozarks came at a time when regional studies was receiving new notice in higher education. The marriage of old newspaper accounts with personal interviews revealed much about the transition of a traditional society into a modern one filled with local institutions. Bobs personal performances from this catalog of entertainments are among the most memorable dramas of any public meetings ever held in the Ozarks.
For another decade Bob continued in administrative support and outreach for SMSU. He became cofounder of Ozarks Watch magazine, was director of Travel and Tourism, and retired in 1993. Bob belonged to many civic organizations in Springfield, Ozark, and the Tn-Lakes area where he served on committees and programs. Another one was in Jefferson City. There he served a tenure on the Missouri Historical Records Advisory Board where he contributed in planning and recommendations to the Secretary of State for the preservation of Missouris heritage in public records. He also found time to be a founder and member of Peace Lutheran E.L.C.A. in Hollister.
During the last two years of Bobs life, he was center stage in his White River Journal, a public radio program aired by KSMU on the university campus. The veteran performer and researcher returned to interviewing Ozarkers about a wide range of historical and contemporary themes. His skillful editing of recordings resulted in the compilation of Radio Book, a survey of the broadcasts. Bobs informants revealed the intelligence of native people and their distinctive humor. Bob Gilmore effectively translated the central ideas.
When you remember our friend Bob Gilmore, recall his dedication to the betterment of the greater Ozarks community. Work in and for his family and the Ozarks was his passion. He would expect the same from you.
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