Virginia Center for Civil War Studies

Tributes to James I. “Bud” Robertson Jr.

James I. “Bud” Robertson Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Virginia Tech, died on November 2 after a long illness. He was 89 years old.

Dr. Bud, as he liked to be called, was also the legendary founding director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. He used vivid stories to bring the American Civil War to life not just for generations of Virginia Tech students, but also for millions across the world through his award-winning books, frequent television appearances, popular radio essays, and passionate advocacy of history. Thanks to him and those he inspired, Virginia Tech is widely known as a leading home of Civil War history.

We encourage those touched by Dr. Bud’s extraordinary legacy to offer their tributes here.

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Richard Swigert
Richard Swigert

Having attended most Campaigning With Lees over a more then thirty year period, my wife and I have felt quite privileged to call Bud a good and dear friend. A finer and truer gentleman we could not imagine. His character was as exceptional as his knowledge of history. Whenever we saw Bud he met us with a great warm smile and greeting. I am sure we will experience both again one day when we see him in heaven.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Richard & Donna Swigert
Campaigners With Lee
James Rhyne
James Rhyne

My Grandfather started my interest in the War Between the States, and Dr. Robertson gave it life. He often read the eloquent letters soldiers, officer and enlisted alike, sent home. They spoke of the realities of war and love for their spouses and families. Many times a collective groan would fill Burris 100 after a particularly heartfelt letter was read and Dr. Robertson informed us the soldier in question died in battle at a later date. I once asked him about the works of author Shelby Foote. He smiled in his usual manner then said, “They’re an entertaining read.” Always… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
James Rhyne, Virginia Tech, History 1993
Linda Fountaine
Linda Fountaine

I knew Bud, who became my friend for 31 years while working in the History Department. He was always so delightful to be around and was so passionate about History in any form. As a general rule he would come in my office before his class, check on me, tell me his new historical discovery, give me a hug, and a kiss on the cheek, wishing me a good day! I am saddened by his passing and am sending his family my love and sincere sympathies.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Linda Fountaine
Dan Cundiff
Dan Cundiff

Dr. Robertson made history come alive. I had to wait to take his class in my junior year, and as a business student, I wasn’t expecting much from the auditorium classroom environment in McBride Hall. Dr. Robertson walked in the first day, started his introduction in his easy going dialogue, quickly mesmerizing and commanding the attention in over 300 students within 5 minutes of starting is lecture. That was it – I was forever hooked on Civil War history. I’ve passed on the love for civil war history to my daughter and conducted further research to discover the deep roots… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Dan Cundiff, Class of '76
Kam Benfield
Kam Benfield

I heard Dr. Bud speak at the annual Civil War weekends in March at VT in Blacksburg and Roanoke many times. In 2007 he spoke at a small gathering of alums in Greensboro. His short biography of RE Lee was just out and he graciously spent a good 10 minutes talking with me about Lee, then signed my book. Never forget it. I didn’t attend VT as an undergrad. I hate because of that I never got to take a class under him.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Kam Benfield
Pegi Marks
Pegi Marks

I first knew Dr Robertson as a professor at VT when my husband and I took his class. Sad to say, it was a hard class because we got so absorbed by his skills as an orator that we didn’t take adequate notes to do real well on the tests but he and his class were MEMORABLE. Fast forward 10 years and we had the privilege of being a member of his congregation at St Francis Anglican Church in Blacksburg and then got to know him as Bud Robertson. He baptized both of our children. As our deacon, Bud used… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Pegi Marks, class of 1977
Bill Faucette
Bill Faucette

Virginia Tech has lost a great man in Dr. Bud. While I never had a class with him, I spent 1 month travelling in Europe with him and several other Va Tech students in 1979. I got to know him outside of academia and only wish I had the opportunity to take one of his classes. Now that he’s in heaven, I’m sure that he will be able to meet all of the men and women he so eloquently wrote about. I am sure he is having a grand time.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Bill Faucette
BS, Computer Science '81
Anonymous
Anonymous

I cannot avoid smiling when I remember Bud’s infectious wit and humor on the many occasions we participated in a Civil War event. While he was deadly serious about his craft and about history to be emotionally affected when talking about the hardships of that era, he was at the same time warm, thoughtful, witty, and funny in his relations with his colleagues. We will all miss him.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Craig Symonds, fellow Civil War historian
Lyle Edwards
Lyle Edwards

Virginia & all of the United States of America have lost a national treasure.I had the honor & pleasure of meeting Dr. Bud & listening to his spell binding stories on a few occasions while a member of the Richmond Civil War Roundtable. His accomplishments and his generous nature to share his knowledge is beyond compare.
Dr. Bud will be sorely missed by so many. Rest In Peace.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Lyle Edwards
Melanie Kiechle
Melanie Kiechle

Dr Bud was very kind to me while he was speaking at the University of Richmond, on A.P. Hill. I was assigned there for the US Army teaching Military History. He generously gave me a copy of his book on Hill, the topic of the lecture. I met him again in the morning hours of 12 May 2014 on the battlefield at Spotsylvania Court House for the 150 Anniversary of the Civil War where he was the principal speaker. As he was leaving I told him, “Sir, Secretary of War Stimson during WWII told General Marshall he was the finest… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Charles M. Herbek
LTC USA (Ret)
Jay Jorgensen
Jay Jorgensen

Our Civil War Round Table in New Jersey had the great good fortune to have Dr. Bud make several presentations to us over the years. His last visit, accompanied by his gracious wife Betty, was in June of this year. As always, he provided a wonderful, spell-binding talk, ending in a standing ovation from the packed conference room. in 2000 we instituted our annual James I. “Bud” Robertson Award in his honor for the most outstanding new book on Confederate history each year. The Civil War community has lost a giant. Dr. Bud will be missed by all.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Friend
Katherine
Katherine

I was fortunate enough to take his class 2006-2007. He was a gifted speaker and educator and made history come alive for his many students.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Class of 2007
Tom Nanzig
Tom Nanzig

My wife, Barb, and I were lucky enough to be among a group of Virginians in the 1970s and 1980s who came into contact with Bud Robertson often enough to call him a good friend. While working at William & Mary in about 1977, we attended a student affairs conference at Virginia Tech. We learned that Bud was giving his acclaimed end-of-semester “common soldier” presentation to his Civil War class. Fortunately, it was in a large auditorium so Barb and I were able to skip out of the student affairs session and attend Bud’s program, instead. It was spellbinding and… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Tom Nanzig, Campaigning With Lee, 1981-1991
Karl Bentley
Karl Bentley

As a university visitor from the UK my friend Lannis Selz, one of Dr Robertson’s alumni arranged a personal visit to meet up with Dr Robertson when he discovered I had a deep interest in the American Civil war. Our conversation at his home spanned many areas of history and I have fond memories of Dr Robertson being an amazing historian but also that he must have been an outstanding teacher. A real gentleman, he’ll be sorely missed, I’m sure, by everyone.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Karl Bentley, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK
Anonymous
Anonymous

I met my beloved husband, Richard Sommers, at a Campaigning with Lee seminar, so you can add matchmaker to Bud’s many accomplishments. Dick had great respect for Bud and treasured his friendship, as did I. The Civil War soldier came vividly alive through his stories and he shared his considerable knowledge so effectively. I envision Bud and Dick meeting again to share ideas. Bud was a magnificent man.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Tracy Sommers
Anonymous
Anonymous

I had the unique honor of producing Bud’s weekly commentaries on WVTF and other public radio stations. It took me a couple of years before I felt comfortable suggesting a rewrite here, or an emphasis there. 🙂 The longer we worked together, the longer it took to record the commentaries, because we’d end up talking about any number of things while trying to record. Bud was what I call an ‘easy edit’. Very few fluffs, and he knew exactly where to start over to keep the flow going. We grew to be good friends over those years, but I’ve been… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Paul Lancaster
Retired Senior Producer
Virginia Tech
Anonymous
Anonymous

So sad to hear of Bud’s passing. I remember so clearly a meeting we had at
the Montgomery County (MD) Round Table when I asked Bud why he thought our
country was so successful over two centuries and several political crises.
He answered in one word: “compromise.” I will never forget that. His legacy
will live on.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Ed Steers
Anonymous
Anonymous

When I was in high school, my dad took me to the Stonewall Jackson House to meet Dr. “Bud” Robertson. He was signing copies of his new biography of “Stonewall” Jackson. I was the youngest person there, outside of a little baby named Robert Lee. For a history nerd like me, it was the equivalent of meeting a rock start I told Dr. Robertson I wanted to be a teacher, and use his books in my classes. Fast forward several years, and I am now a teacher, and I use the information I gathered from Dr. Robertson in my classes.… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Justin Halterman
Social Studies Department
Salem High School
Virginia Tech, Class of 2010
Anonymous
Anonymous

Bud Robertson lived an impressive life filled with success as a teacher at Virginia Tech, as a publishing scholar, as an editor, and as a historian who spent a great deal of time reaching non-academic audiences of many kinds. His love of history, especially that of the Civil War and of his home state of Virginia, translated effectively to all those who heard him speak during a career that lasted more than half-a-century. He was a model for anyone who values the need to bridge the gap between academic and popular history.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Gary W. Gallagher, John L. Nau III Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia

Anonymous
Anonymous

Dr. Robertson was my friend and mentor as a fellow Civil War historian. May his noble soul rest in honored peace.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Prof. Ervin L. Jordan, Jr.
Research Archivist, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Affiliated faculty, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History,
University of Virginia College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
Advisory Board of the National Civil War Chaplains’ Research Center and Museum
Board of Trustees of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society (Museum of the Confederacy, 2004-2011)
Gettysburg Foundation Board of Directors
Anonymous
Anonymous

His name was Tom Smith, and he changed my life. He lived in the top floor apartment on the right at the front of 9700 Foxridge in Blacksburg. I lived in the bottom apartment on the right of the same building. We spent most of our free time talking to the two girls that lived on the floor between us. Tom Smith, was as he might say it “a good looking dude,” a finance major, who prefaced all remarks with, “Hey Man.” He was like a surfer except he was from Richmond. We became friends. He got me playing golf… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Thomas D. Perry, VT Class of 1983, Founder of the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace
Anonymous
Anonymous

When I last talked with Dr. Robertson at the 29th Annual Civil War Weekend I feared that his health was declining. I met him first in 1976 when I took his class on Civil War history. I kept in touch with him since then at Alumni and Athletic events and by attending every Civil War Weekend Event since 1991. My family and I considered him a friend and great man. I will miss him, as will the Virginia Tech Community and Civil War Historians throughout the Commonwealth, nation and world. Rest in Peace Dr. Robertson.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
John E.B. Clark, Jr. - History’78
Anonymous
Anonymous

For me Heaven will not be Heaven unless there is a history symposium at least once a week. For this week’s symposium they are going to have to set out extra chairs to handle the larger than normal crowds, for I am sure the special guest will be Dr. James I. “Bud” Robertson. In my humble opinion, Dr. Robertson is the greatest Civil War scholar and teacher ever. It was my pleasure to serve as his graduate assistant for two years (2000-2002) where I learned from him every day. In my academic life there is no greater influence on my… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
James Finck - History graduate student, 2002.
Sandy Bost
Sandy Bost

Dr. Robertson was my favorite professor at Virginia Tech. He made history come alive for me and I always enjoyed the classes that he taught. His book on Stonewall Jackson is an outstanding work on another great Virginian. I was honored that he signed my copy. I will never forget him.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Sandy Laughon Bost - class of '73
Karen Grigg
Karen Grigg

I am so saddened to hear of Dr. Bud‘s passing. Although not a history major I too spend many hours in McBride 100 listening to his stories, not lectures, on the War between the States. His love and passion for Virginia drew me in and made me proud to be a Virginian. He was a friend to many historical societies and truly embodied our motto “Ut Prosim” . The likes of him will never pass this way again. Truly he was a Virginia Gentleman. Rest well Dr. Bud, under the shade of the trees.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Karen Birdsong Grigg, Class of 1982
Ginette Aley
Ginette Aley

I was touched by his life and moved by his death. I had the privilege of taking Bud Robertson’s 2-semester Civil War course at Virginia Tech while an undergrad and also took at least 1 grad class under him. Although I did not intend to become a Civil War scholar (my dissertation was on the Old Northwest), I have since published and spoken in that field, on the home front, because of how vibrant and essential he made that field of study. I knew as that undergrad in his class that he was the most disciplined scholar I would ever… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Ginette Aley, Virginia Tech (BA and MA)
Melinda Finch Cagle
Melinda Finch Cagle

I feel blessed to have taken Dr. Robertson’s class as an undergrad and attended ~15 Civil War Weekends. His words live on in his books I own. He had a wonderful way of making you feel immersed in the period. He was a wonderful ambassador for Virginia Tech and leaves a legacy few can match. He will be sorely missed.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Melinda Finch Cagle, Class of 1987
David Johnston
David Johnston

I studied “History of the South” and “History of the Civil War” under Bud at GWU in the early 60’s when he was the Director of the national Civil War Centennial Commission. He was a brilliant, spellbinding teacher who knew everyone of importance in his field. When he delivered an address at a battlefield, we were blessed by his substitutes; Bruce Catton, Virgil Carrington Jones, Alan Nevins and the like. We spent a day walking the battlefield at Gettysburg with the National Park Historian and Bud. We stood on Round Top and looked across at the Confederate positions and for… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
David Johnston, GWU student
Jim Swope
Jim Swope

I was a History major and grad student at VT when Dr. Robertson was Chairman of the History Dept. back in the mid/late-’70s. I remember him instilling the fear of God into us in the “Professional Study of History” graduate seminar that he never wanted to hear from a librarian or archivist that we had not followed their instructions as to the use and return of materials. I still think of that whenever I enter a library. I got to see him several times in later years when the Alumni Association brought him here to Tampa Bay for events, and… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Jim Swope, VT Class of 1976
Sheridaan R. Barringer
Sheridaan R. Barringer

I remember sitting down next to Bud after lunch at one of his Civil War Weekends at Virginia Tech. We chatted for a few minutes, and he signed my copy of his biography of Stonewall Jackson. He later reviewed a couple of chapters of my General Rufus Barringer biography and made helpful comments. I was just spellbound during his talk about his biography of Jackson. I enjoyed being with him at quite a few of those Civil War Weekends. He was truly a gentleman and will be missed.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Sheridan R. Barringer
Daniel Newomb
Daniel Newomb

As a child I remember listening to Dr. Robertson’s Civil War series on the local public radio station, fueling my growing love of the Civil War and Virginia history. When I met Dr. Robertson at a lecture at the Homestead Resort when I was 13 I told him that I wanted to be as good of a historian as him when I grew up. One of the reasons I came to Virginia Tech upon graduation was because he was here. As a Virginia Tech student I was fortunate to be one of his students, taking his Civil War classes during… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Daniel Newcomb, Virginia Tech Class of 2013
Emmett Hall
Emmett Hall

As Past President of the Atlanta Civil War Round Table I was blessed to know Bud. Always the Gentleman, his vast knowledge of the Civil War was freely given to all. He is in every respect a Great American. He will be greatly missed here in Atlanta. With Greatest Respect, Emmett Hall

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Emmett Hall
Clara Christensen, Riverlorian American Queen (Red
Clara Christensen, Riverlorian American Queen (Red

Bud was a dearly loved part of our Civil War Cruises on the steamboats of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. His Civil War church service was inspiring! He was one of my heroes!

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Clara Christensen, Riverlorian American Queen
Michael K. Shaffer
Michael K. Shaffer

Thank you for the many years of outstanding scholarship! Rest In Peace, Bud.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Kennesaw State University and Emory University
michael francis
michael francis

It is sad to lose any one of note but to lose a true historian in this time of historical trouble is a disaster. I live in England and am a American civil war reenactor so did not know Dr Bud only from his books. my condolences and prayers go out to his family.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Michael Francis
Anonymous
Anonymous

Dr. Robertson was not only one of my professors while I was a student at Virginia Tech, but he also became a dear friend after I graduated. He was always genuine whenever he would ask how I and my family were doing whenever we saw each other or spoke on the phone. As my professor of Civil War history at Virginia Tech, it was obvious how much he cared equally about the subject and his students. There are also many occasions when I was in his presence that I will always remember fondly. I admired him greatly because he was… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Michael Eck, Virginia Tech Class of 1998, Richmond, VA
Bobby Ingle
Bobby Ingle

Dr. Robertson was one of my favorite people that I was fortunate enough to know in my life. Several years ago, as I was serving as the chapter president of the Southwest Virginia chapter of the Tech Alumni Association, Dr Bud so graciously agreed to come to our area for several speaking engagements. Because of that, many of us became aquatinted with him. Not only did we get to know him, he became endeared to us. The one thing that I always said about him was that he was the only person that I ever knew that could have an… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Bobby Ingle, Former Alumni Board Member and class of 1975
Meghan Jester
Meghan Jester

As a high school student, I self-selected to read Dr. Robertson’s 900 page biography of Stonewall Jackson strictly because I had heard he was an incredible Virginia Tech professor. Little did I know at that point that I would enroll as a history major here. His storytelling ability amazed me in high school, and I knew I wanted the chance to take his class before he retired. I had my advisor drop one of my classes at orientation the summer before my freshmen year to make sure that happened. After getting over the shock of my very first college class… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Meghan Jester, class of 2013; Assistant Director in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Anonymous
Anonymous

During my 30 years as a communicator in University Relations at Virginia Tech, I got to know Bud Robertson because I love history. I had always wanted to take one of his classes but my work schedule was perpetually too busy. I have every one of his books, which he signed personally. He wrote the foreword for the last of my books on Virginia, which focused on the Civil War. While he was a consummate scholar, he was also one of the most gracious persons I have known and a legend in every way. What an honor to have known… Read more »

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Lynn Davis, Retired Communications Director for the College of Natural Resources and Environment
Tom Tillar, Former Vice President for Alumni Relations
Tom Tillar, Former Vice President for Alumni Relations

The Alumni Association was honored that Bud Robertson held one of its coveted Alumni Distinguished Professorships, appointed some 20 years after this university-wide program was originally established. During that time and even in his retirement, he spoke at well over 100 alumni chapter, reunion, and other alumni events. On each occasion, his wit, captivating style, and glimpses into history were powerful proof of his brilliance as a celebrated historian, his love for Virginia Tech, and his endearment to our alumni as a university treasure.”

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Tom Tillar, Former Vice President for Alumni Relations
Tim Sands, President of Virginia Tech
Tim Sands, President of Virginia Tech

Dr. Robertson was a remarkable person who shared his life and gifts with so many. His service to the nation, the commonwealth, his profession, and the Virginia Tech community is unparalleled. We are incredibly fortunate to have had the great benefit of his talents for so many years. May we carry Dr. Robertson’s passion for discovery and spirit of service forward in his honor.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Tim Sands, President of Virginia Tech
Paul Quigley, Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies and the James I. Robertson Jr. Associate Professor in Civil War Studies
Paul Quigley, Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies and the James I. Robertson Jr. Associate Professor in Civil War Studies

He shared his devotion to history, and his determination that Americans should learn the lessons of their fractious past, with countless public audiences as well as generations of college students. Hearing him lecture — feeling the connection he made with his audiences — was inspirational. Into his late-80s, Dr. Robertson brought a remarkable vitality to the podium, employing his special blend of encyclopedic knowledge, understated humor, and compassion for the men and women he studied. He made his audiences laugh, he made them cry, and he helped them understand the complexities of the past like few speakers can.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
Paul Quigley, Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies and the James I. Robertson Jr. Associate Professor in Civil War Studies
William C. “Jack” Davis, Former Director, Virginia Center for Civil War Studies
William C. “Jack” Davis, Former Director, Virginia Center for Civil War Studies

For fully six decades Bud Robertson was a dominant figure in his field, and a great encouragement to all who would study our turbulent past during the middle of the 19th century. Moreover, amid a conversation that can still become bitter and confrontational, his was a voice for reason, patience, and understanding. In the offing, he has become virtually ‘Mr. Virginia,’ a spokesperson for the commonwealth past, present, and future. His voice is now sorely missed — and irreplaceable.

Name (optional: add affiliation and/or Virginia Tech class year)
William C. “Jack” Davis, Former Director, Virginia Center for Civil War Studies
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