ARMSTRONG, ROBERT LANDIS (1932 ~ 2015). The following is an obituary for Robert Landis "Bob" Armstrong, former member of the Texas House and Commissioner of the General Land Office. The obituary was provided by Weed, Corley, Fish Funeral Home.
Robert Landis "Bob" Armstrong loved his family, Texas, land, and God. He never met a stranger and looked for the best in each person he encountered.
Bob, who served seven years in the Texas House of Representatives and twelve years as Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office died of heart failure Sunday evening. He was 82.
Both in the Texas House and as Land Commissioner, Bob was one of the earliest public officials actively to promote protection of Texas' environmental interests.
He also increased the state's revenues from oil and gas production on state lands. These revenues helped fund Texas schools and universities. As Land Commissioner and Chairman of the Board for Lease of University Lands, Bob oversaw raising royalties on state lands from one-sixth, to one-fifth, to one-fourth, substantially increasing the University fund's revenues.
While a House member, Bob sponsored a constitutional amendment in 1967 to allow investment of the Permanent University Fund in stocks, under the "prudent man" rule, rather than bonds. This amendment vastly increased the fund's income.
In 1968, Bob and four others founded the Sierra Club's Austin chapter, which has grown to more than 3,300 members.
Armstrong ran for governor in 1982 but finished third in the Democratic Primary behind Mark White and Arthur "Buddy" Temple. In 1985, Governor White appointed Bob to the Parks and Wildlife Commission. While a member of this Commission, Bob saw his 17-year vision become a reality when the state purchased the 212,000-acre ranch adjacent to the Big Bend National Park and established the Big Bend Ranch State Park. This new land more than doubled the state park acreage in Texas. Bob and former Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Andy Sansom's long effort to buy the ranch for Texas was commemorated with a celebration in 2009. In 2014, the ranch headquarters building was named the Bob Armstrong Visitor Center.
The Big Bend Ranch State Park Visitor Center was the first thing named for Bob since he helped to concoct an appetizer decades ago at Matt's El Rancho restaurant – guacamole, queso and ground beef -- that is affectionately known on the restaurant's menu as "Bob Armstrong Dip."
Bob served as Natural Resources and Energy Advisor to Governor Ann Richards from 1991 to 1993. From 1993 to 1998, during the administration of President Bill Clinton, Bob was Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the U.S. Department of the Interior. In that capacity, Bob oversaw the Bureau of Land Management; the Minerals Management Service, which produces oil and gas; and the Office of Surface Mining, which produces coal.
As Assistant Secretary Bob oversaw the management of more than 264 million acres of public land; management of mineral production on the Outer Continental Shelf; mining and reclamation activities; and Alaska's environment, as the Federal Member of the Alaska Pipeline Oversight Committee. During Armstrong's tenure, those agencies deposited almost $29 billion in the U.S. Treasury. After returning to Texas in 1998, Bob served on several committees dealing with federal lakes, Alaska, and the Western United States.
Bob's national awards include the Field and Stream Conservation Award, the Nature Conservancy President's Public Service Award, and the Chevron Conservation Award.
Bob graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1953 with a BA degree and served two years as a LTJG at sea with the U.S. Navy from 1953 to 1955. He earned his law degree from UT in 1959 and served as an assistant attorney general before his election to the House.
In early 1971, Bob celebrated his victory as Texas Land Commissioner by inviting his supporters and friends for a weekend campout at his recently acquired ranch near Liberty Hill. The "Armstrong Campout" became an annual tradition for Bob's eclectic group of family and friends including musicians, politicians, and journalists.
Bob was an active fly fisherman; a pilot with over 5000 hours; a white-water canoeist, camper, hunter, bird-watcher, outdoor photographer, and golfer.
Bob was the only child of Robert Cochran Armstrong, a Ford dealer and former Austin city councilman, and Louise Evans Landis Armstrong, a 30-year professor of Home Economics at the University of Texas at Austin.
He is survived by his wife of 31 years Linda Aaker and their son Will; three children from a previous marriage to Shannon Harrison Armstrong – Martha Louise, Shannon and Landis; and two grandsons, Martha Louise's sons Landis and Finn Hagerty.
The family will receive friends at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home at 3125 North Lamar Blvd. from 6-8pm on Wednesday, March 4.
A celebration of Bob's life will be held on Thursday, March 5, at University United Methodist Church at two o'clock.
Please donate any memorial contributions to Compadres del Rancho Grande (Friends of the Big Bend Ranch), at firstname.lastname@example.org. or to the conservation organization of your choice.