STEWART, ROBERT EUGENE (1930 ~ 1986)
Biographical sketch was provided by Mary Louise Stewart Claunch, Lindale, Texas (2011).
Bob Stewart was born August 3, 1930, in Sulphur Springs, Texas, a fourth generation Texan. His parents were Clovis Edgar Stewart, a public accountant, and Vallie Dodd Stewart, a homemaker. He had two sisters: Mary Louise Stewart, born in 1939, and Joyce Elaine Stewart, born in 1940. The young sisters were always known by Bob as “The Brats.”
Although Bob was born near the start of the Great Depression, the Stewart family was largely unaffected. Clovis had a secure job as a bookkeeper for a cotton gin, and around 1934 opened his own accounting business. As a teenager, Bob enjoyed small-town pursuits of music, girls and hanging out at the drug store soda fountain. Movies were free, since the local theater was one of his dad’s clients. His favorite Christmas present, around 1946, was a 78-RPM phonograph, which, of course, The Brats weren’t allowed to touch. A convertible was always his car of choice. Bob even learned basic bookkeeping principles working summers for Clovis.
He attended Sulphur Springs High School, where he played trumpet in the school band, and graduated in 1948. He entered East Texas State Teachers College at Commerce, but left to join the Air Force on September 1, 1950.
Bob reported for his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, and after a few weeks, he was given a job as a clerk. He was grateful, saying, “These feet weren’t made for marching.” In August 1951, after thinking he would be based in England, he was sent to Keflavik, Iceland, where he served as a senior clerk until August 1952. While there, he wrote his family (almost daily) entertaining letters about his chilly surroundings, events at an airfield with notoriously bad weather, and how much he hated life in the Air Force. His last few letters from Iceland discussed every little detail of a planned purchase from a Sulphur Springs car dealer. After returning to the states, he picked up the new car of his dreams, a red 1952 Pontiac convertible.
He was then based at Connally Air Force Base in Waco, where he helped to clean up after the Waco tornado in May 1953. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force with the rank of sergeant in July 1954.
Moving to Austin, Bob enrolled at Texas University, majoring in accounting. He worked for the accounting firm of Conklin & Ellis, and then for two years at Capital National Bank in Austin.
He became an Assistant Bank Examiner for the State Banking Department in 1957 and in 1960 was promoted to Bank Examiner. During this time, he lived in Dallas, Corpus Christi, Houston, Lufkin, Amarillo and Victoria.
On July 26, 1960, Bob married Elnor Myrl Cates of Lufkin. She was born in Angelina County, Texas, on April 6, 1930 to Monroe and Lila Viva Vetto Cates.
In 1964 he was named a Departmental Examiner, and became Deputy Commissioner of Banking in 1965. On July 1, 1970, following the resignation of J. M. Falkner, Bob was appointed by the State Finance Commission to the position of Banking Commissioner of Texas.
Banking in Texas became interesting in January 1971 as the United States Securities Exchange Commission filed suit against Sharpstown State Bank, National Bankers Life Insurance Corporation and a number of other defendants. Through all the many hearings
and investigations, Bob was consistently described as “soft-spoken and straightforward.” The Sharpstown case caused many changes in the banking industry and Texas government.
After the dust had settled in 1972, Bob was quoted as saying, “If Sharpstown did nothing else, it put the [banking] department firmly in the public eye. The people now know where we are, what we are, and what we are supposed to do.” (See “Without Compromise, Fear or Favor, 1905-2005, The First Century of the Texas Department of Banking,” published by the Department of Banking.)
During this time of his life, Bob and Myrl took deep sea fishing trips to the Gulf, and he became an avid hunter. He amassed a large collection of music on tapes, from Big Band and jazz to easy listening. He loved living in Austin, especially Saturday lunch visits to the Hoffbrau Steakhouse, Longhorn football games, and Louie’s Lounge.
Bob retired as Banking Commissioner in August 1983 for health reasons, after 13 years as Commissioner and 26 years with the Banking Department. He took a position with Landmark Investments in Austin, selling government securities. He and Myrl purchased a lot in Onalaska, Texas on Lake Livingston and built a retirement home there in 1985. They settled down to lake living, with crossword puzzles and a daily visit for coffee to the local Dairy Queen. Though he and Myrl had no children, their nieces and nephews affectionately became the new generation of “brats.”
In the early spring of 1986, Bob was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm and surgery was planned. However, he was sent home to recover from an infection before surgery. He died in his sleep the night of March 22, 1986.
Funeral services were held on March 24 at the Cook-Walden Funeral Home in Austin. Pallbearers were Ruben Johnson, G. E. (Bud) Simmons, Bill Aldridge, Dan Flynn, Ken Rolston, Tom Ewers, Archie Clayton, Gayle Schroder and Chester Baker. Survivors included his wife, Myrl, mother, Vallie Stewart, sisters Mary Louise Claunch and Joyce McPherson, four nephews and two nieces, plus Myrl’s large family in Lufkin. He is buried at the Texas State Cemetery.