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.

53 replies on “Tributes to James I. “Bud” Robertson Jr.”

I was fortunate to have a longstanding relationship with Dr. Robertson, as a fellow Danvillian, graduate of Randolph-Macon College and lover of history. As a high school student, he was in a YMCA-sponsored group for which my father was advisor. My family has had a long connection to R-MC, where he attended.

When I was growing up, I delivered the Danville Register & Bee newspapers to his mother. This was during the Civil War Centennial and she would have him send early copies of the Commission’s publications to me. The academic benefits still make me smile.

My last contact with Dr. Robertson was many years later. I had been in Lexington, VA and called him on my way back to Charlotte, NC where I now live. His Jackson bio had recently been published and I asked if he would sign my copy. Graciously, he met my junior high age son and me near I-81, signed the copy and talked with him about his interests in history. That son is now chair of the history department at Davidson Day School and he has the copy of Dr Robertson’s book.

I will always treasure his kindness. More so, I treasure his awareness that “history” is to be appreciated at many levels…individual and family too. I am glad to say I thought of him a friend and will always remember his kindnesses.

Sadly, I just recently learned of Dr. Robertson’s passing. I have read his books and watched every lecture or presentation I could find online over the years. His contributions to scholarship regarding the War Between the States is irreplaceable. Around a year or so ago, I e-mailed him. We were strangers, but I thanked him for his life’s work and, in particular, for bravely stating something modern historians rarely do — that is, that the people of history must be judged by their times and not by modern sensibilities. It is rare to hear that these days, and few have the chops to say it anymore. Bud Robertson did and I am so grateful that I was able to thank him for that. Perhaps not surprisingly, he e-mailed me back, thanked me for my note and reaffirmed the principle that we must judge the past through the lens of understanding, learning from our mistakes and becoming better for it. Dr. Robertson was a true American treasure. May his legacy live on in the life of his students, his books and his family. And may historians of the present and future learn from his example and exhibit his curiosity, his storytelling prowess and his compassion for those who lived in a different time. God bless you Dr. Robertson. We are all better for having learned from you.

I met Dr. Robertson through some of the early Civil War Weekends at Virginia Tech. These events are some of my fondness memories from my time living in VA. I especially liked the Sunday morning service he gave at the end of the weekend. Afterwards, me and my friends would always go up to talk to him. He was such a kind man, and he made you feel completely at ease in conversation. You couldn’t help but sense that this was a person who had a genuinely good soul. It’s been many years since I’ve seen him, but I’ve never forgotten him – he left a lasting impression on me. I’m so saddened to learn of his passing. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

It is hard for me to grasp the passing of Dr. Robertson – he had such a presence about him that I guess I thought he would go on forever – I wrote him in 2011 when he received so many accolades for his contributions to the University & the Commonwealth – I told him that I was an Tech engineering student who had the very good fortunate to discover a course on the Civil War – I recall that the class I took had about 20 students, but the next quarter after the word got out, there were more than 100 students plus those who “snuck” in standing around the room because it was full – I told him that he gave me a life long appreciation for history – it was a priceless gift – he wrote me & told me that my letter brought a tears to his eyes – I am glad that I was able to touch his emotions because he touched the emotions of those 25,000 students that he taught – I have not seen him since the 2 classes that I took in the late 1960’s, but I feel our lost today.

I was fortunate to be among the first group of Virginia Tech graduate students in history taught by Dr. Bud. While my ultimate specialization in earning a Ph. D. in history at Vanderbilt was not the Civil War, the man shaped me in significant ways as a student and scholar. My seminar paper for his graduate Civil War class was the first scholarly work I had published, and to this day dictums from another graduate class, in historiography and methodology, run through my mind whenever I am writing. We stayed in touch periodically over the years and I took great delight in a statement he once made long after I left Blacksburg: “Jim,” he said, “your only real mistake in choosing a career in history was that you made British imperial history, rather than the Civil War, your research area of choice.”

Dr. Bud was inspiring in the classroom; a study in character through his ability to overcome a tendency to stutter and, much later, managing to give up smoking; a sterling example to anyone who studied under him; and ever full of the unexpected. One example of the latter is perhaps worth sharing. The key undertaking for the Civil War seminar for graduate students of which I was a member involved selecting a Virginia regiment and tracing its history through the conflict. The day he returned our research papers, which almost everyone in the class had labored on to the utmost of their ability, he stormed into the seminar room slightly late, looking a bit frazzled and seemingly as mad as a wet hornet. He slammed our papers on the seminar table, and you could readily see a riot of red running across their exposed pages. He then launched into a five-minute diatribe about literary shortcomings, research snafus, and how we collectively had deprived him of a night’s sleep as he labored through our paltry efforts. As we all sat transfixed in a state of abject terror, fearful our graduate careers were about to come to a sudden, ignominious end, he underwent a miraculous change.

“That enough of that,” he said, breaking into the huge grin which was one of his many endearing characteristics. “We’ll get back to it later. Meanwhile, I think we all need to go out for some pizza and a few pitchers of beer. I’m buying.”

Two or three others in that class went on to complete doctoral level studies in history, and I strongly suspect they felt the man’s influence as much as I did. He did a great deal for me in terms of teaching solid research and writing techniques, complimented me when I had my own scholarly books published, and was always a source of both encouragement and inspiration. As a man, a mentor, and a masterful scholar, he was an icon who left an enduring mark. I feel singularly blessed to have known the man and to have taken classes under his tutelage.

Dr. Jim Casada

Dr. John E. Pierce, VT 68, 70. One of my lifelong honors is to have known Dr. Bud for 55 years. He turned my life around in ’65 as his incomparable
Civil War class left me wanting to have such an impact on students. Thereafter my studies turned to the Civil War and I became his teaching assistant.
HIs guidance led to the publication of my Master’s thesis. Additionally, he called an old friend to help me further my studies at Penn State. Only much later when I helped him publish a series of essays in dedication to Bell I. Wiley could I express some of my appreciation. Now retired after more that 50 years as student, editor and teacher, I can look back and express thanks to a truly remarkable man.

I never missed one of Dr. Bud’s talks at the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable and never failed to learn something new. I also had the pleasure to sit at the dinner table with him at one of the Stonewall Jackson events at Washington & Lee. I was in attendance when he came to Knoxville for a presentation on the night of 9-11. My favorite presentation was one he gave on Abraham Lincoln and I prepared a slide presentation for my history classes based on that wonderful presentation. I attended Dr. Bud’s last appearance at our roundtable and fortunately got a photo taken with him. Dr. Bud was a Virginia gentleman, an accomplished scholar and also a very down to earth individual. I will miss him but will never forget him.

Bud Robertson was a family friend. My parents, life-time Civil War students, met Bud when he was running the Civil War Centennial. They shared a deep intellectual curiosity about the Civil War–PhD historian and historical “amateurs.” Bud welcomed everyone to the fascination of historical inquiry. I was fortunate enough to be one of his graduate students 1968-1969. As he was the chair of the department, I though it would be advisable to audit his introduction to the Civil War. The class was packed. Bud’s appreciation for history and how to make it accessible to everyone drew large numbers, as I remember it, including the football team. He brought the realities of the Civil War alive including the gritty details such as more men died of dysentery than gun shot wounds, and the incredible destruction a minnie ball did to the human body. His guidance to graduate students was invaluable. Write in simple declarative sentences. Keep it short–the electric typewriter was a curse–it let you write way to fast. Pencil and paper was much better to keep your text concise. Although he was not my adviser, his practical advice has guided me through out my career.


Bud and Jack Davis agreed to work with me 10 years ago when I retired. With them I established the Essential Civil War Curriculum which I operate to this day and which is now owned by the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. Their love of Civil War history, foresight, and willingness to support an unorthodox request has given me a decade of joy studying the Civil War and helped create a valuable resource for Civil War students everywhere. Rest in Peace Bud.

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.

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 the gentleman.

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.

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 and heritage of my family roots in VA, having several GG grandfathers who fought for the southern Army. Dr. Robertson gave more than he can ever receive, a true national icon.

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.

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 his oratory skills in touching all of the congregation. Mother’s Day was always a particularly memorable sermon and gave everyone reason to go home and call their mother! Another 20 years later our son attended VT. As a freshman, we told him he NEEDED to take Bud’s Civil War history class. You could sense the “yeah, whatever Mom” reaction. Then, it came to his last semester at VT and, guess what, all his suite-mates were taking Bud’s class but our son had to take a UNIX class required for graduation that was only offered at the same time as the Civil War class. Luckily, he knew enough of the subject matter in the UNIX class that he was able to go to some of Bud’s lectures and it was rewarding to hear him say “you were right a Mom, he’s amazing !! Thanks for so many memories!

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.

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.

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.

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 soldier Stimson had ever known. And you Sir, are the finest teacher I have ever known. Dr Bud was touched and said, “That means a great to me.””
I shall remember him fondly.

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.

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.

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 I signed up for many of his Campaigning With Lee seminars in the following years and enjoyed them all. In fact, when Bud learned through the grapevine that I didn’t have the money to attend the seminar one summer, he sent me a letter telling me not to send any tuition but to “come gratis this year because you have graciously agreed to organize our two all-day bus outings.” He was THAT kind of guy.

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.

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.

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 remiss in calling him up to chat from time to time, and I regret that. Other friends have passed as well, but the loss of Bud’s friendship hits me harder than any other in recent years.
God bless you, Bud. Perhaps we’ll meet again some day.

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.

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. I was also honored to have him as my graduate school adviser while at Virginia Tech. I believe I was his last advisee before he retired. He was always a scholar, and a gentleman. He passed away this weekend. I am not the first to post this, but I hope his passage over the river was peaceful, and that he is now resting under the shade of the trees. He always said that when he got to heaven he wanted to give Stonewall Jackson a hug and let him know people loved him. I hope he got that chance.

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.

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

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 again. We went to Masters golf tournament together. He used to tell ladies out in clubs that we were Tom and Tom, TNT Dynamite.
In the fall of 1981, Tom said to me, “Hey man, you should take this Civil War class. I think you would really like it.” Up to that time, I was more interested in the American Revolution, and I hate to say this out loud because it might incense my Hokie Brethren, but I was interested in Thomas Jefferson.
I signed up for the class in the spring 1982 quarter. VT was still on quarters, not semesters then. I went to McBryde 100, a gigantic room that held at least 300 students in the bottom of the huge building named for former VT President John McBryde. It was about 9 a.m. when the teacher entered the room and mounted the stage. When James I. Robertson, Jr. opened his mouth, I heard the familiar Danville accent. I joined him halfway through the Civil War as the fall quarter covered the coming of the war and the early stages.
This was for me like Saul on the road to Damascus. Looking back, it was a moment that changed my life. While Bud might find it humorous as he is an ordained Episcopal minister, who loves to talk about Chaplains in the Civil War. From that day thirty-seven years ago to this this day there is nothing I would rather do than sit in a big auditorium and listen to him talk about the Civil War.
Bud passed away on Saturday. The last time I saw him was in my mother’s hometown of Augusta, Georgia, where I was visiting family and noticed he was speaking to their Civil War Round Table. He looked up at me and said, “What are you doing here?” I told him I came for class. He liked that!
He was the faculty representative to the NCAA for Virginia Tech. As Tech’s Faculty Chairman of Athletics and President of the Virginia Tech Athletic Association from 1979-1991 he was on the committee that brought Frank Beamer back home to Blacksburg. In 2008, Bud became a member of the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
When I knew Dr. Robertson as a student, he was an ACC football official. He spent sixteen years doing that. Occasionally, I would see a coach berate him on the sidelines. One memorable memory is the time I saw Clemson coach, Danny Ford, eviscerate my Civil War professor on national television. Someone asked him about it in class and got eviscerated themselves.
I had Bud for two Civil War classes and one class called Representative Americans. Part of the grade for the latter was to teach the class one day during the quarter about a person from American History. Again, with apologizes to Hokie Nation, I chose Thomas Jefferson. Never in my life have I been more mortified to stand up in front of a group of people and talk because I knew that if I did not do a good job, the sharp knife of Robertson was waiting to cut me into little pieces, eviscerated. Until that time talking in front of a group of people terrified me, a surprise no doubt to those who hear me now, but that day changed my life too. If I can survive talking in front of “Bud,” no historical association or civil war roundtable is going to bother me.
I loathed speech class at Surry Community College in the late 1970s and once at Virginia Tech in the early 1980s, I recount the sheer terror of standing in front of James I. “Bud” Robertson to teach his class Representative Americans on Thomas Jefferson. I survived, and now I think nothing of getting up in front of a group to talk about history. This because I know my subject much better now than I did then, and my confidence has grown. I came to feel that it was important to talk about the history that interested me.
Bud came to help me raise money for the Bassett Historical Center over a decade ago. I picked on him by showing slides during his introduction pointing out that over the years Bud has made friends with many important people. I showed a photo of Robert Duvall and Hokie Bird saying there were two of Bud’s best friends. Bud consulted on the movie Gods and Generals starring Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee.
It is with a great deal of pride that I saw my former professor on the History Channel and on Blue Ridge Public Television. I listened to him for fourteen years on public radio on Friday mornings. They released CDs of his talks. Stonewall Jackson’s students at The VMI wrote many dreadful things in the margins of their workbooks housed in Lexington. I have placed my notebooks from the Civil War class in Special Collections at Virginia Tech, but there is nothing bad in them about my professor.
Bud worked as in a funeral home while in graduate school at Emory University in Atlanta under Bell Wiley. Bud wrote on his mentor quoting an Atlanta newspaperman saying, “He was the first man I knew personally who could take hold of the past and make it come alive.” Anyone who thinks history is boring never had Bud Robertson as a teacher. I have seen him bring grown men to tears talking about the Civil War and put people on the floor laughing while he talked about embalming practices during the Civil War. As he likes to say he is the world’s leading authority on the subject. The fact that he is the only one in the world interested in that subject is irrelevant to the title. Seriously, a great teacher brings his subject to life. I was blessed with a great teacher. On the dedication page of my book on Patrick County in the Civil War, you will see a dedication to my father who is here tonight with my mother, who also has a book dedicated to her. Just underneath you will see a quote from my Civil War father. “You will never understand what the United States is until you understand what the Civil War was.”
Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. of Virginia Tech often said, “One can never understand what the United States is until one understands what the Civil War was.” The war is still with us today.
My Civil War professor at Virginia Tech encouraged audiences and the largest Civil War class in the nation to visit those cemeteries and take the time to listen and meditate on the Civil War. He spoke of “Americans who loved their country more than they loved life itself. That is the greatest legacy that comes out of that war, and we must never forget it.”
In 2011, I went back to college. My professor Alumni Distinguished Professor James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr. was retiring from teaching the largest Civil War class in the country after over half a century at Virginia Tech. I took the opportunity when in Blacksburg to do some research on William T. Sherman and his march through Georgia and the Carolinas for my friend R. Wayne Jones for a book about the Battle of Aiken, a cavalry fight between Joseph Wheeler and Judson Kilpatrick.
Bud taught then in the Colonial Room of the Squires Student Center, but in my day, it was 100 McBride Hall. In 1982, I sat in on my first quarter of Civil War with him and it changed my life. To this day I am still amazed at how he brings the war to life and keeps the attention of twenty somethings most of whom didn’t know or care about Lee, Lincoln and much less Jefferson Davis and U. S. Grant. This was reinforced to me as I sat waiting for class to begin. The students behind me were bemoaning the fact they did not have DVR to record a recent showing of Gettysburg on Turner Classic Movies and one male regretted not seeing Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles, which made me laugh. Then a very attractive tall and blonde coed came in engaging the crew behind me and during the course of the conversation state that she hated that the Civil War class was about to end. She said she wished this class could go on forever. What better compliment could a teacher have, and I am sure Bud would have enjoyed the fact it was an attractive female who said it.
When Bud came in, I spoke to him briefly and I was pleased to see his nearly eight decade old eyes light up and a big smile saying to me he could not believe I would come to class. Bud then came to tell us all how much he hated computers, but that he had to do something called a PowerPoint presentation and that with the help of another young coed he had discovered something called Google and that there are images on there of everything. He had most of us in stitches laughing at something we had known for years. Computers were just coming into vogue in 1982 when I started at Virginia Tech and a personal computer sat on a desk and was called an Apple 2E or an IBM PC with 640K memory. My how things have changed.
Well, it was my “last lecture” with my professor at Virginia Tech. He spoke about “Why the South lost the war” concentrating on Jefferson Davis and in his inability to get along with most of his generals, his vice-president Alexander Stephens, and the Confederate Congress. The fifty minutes passed much too quickly and although the time passed way to quickly and I had heard the talk before I remembered why this man meant so much to me. He could bring dry and boring material to life with humor and a presentation that still marvels my mind.
Bud used to say that, “History is the greatest teacher you will ever have.” He did not have James I. Robertson, Jr. as a teacher, the greatest teacher I ever had.

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.

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 teaching than him. He was the greatest story teller I have ever listened to. If I am even half as good as he was I will consider myself a success. Though we did not talk often, I will miss knowing he is around to answer my questions and give me advice and support. He was an amazing historian, mentor, teacher, husband, father, and my friend.

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.

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.

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 meet and that he commanded respect (he DID teach us that if we weren’t there to learn he would leave, and the loss would be ours). He was generous with his time and advice–and gave my dad, who thought Civil War historians walked on water, a happy memory of getting to meet and talk with him at a Civil War Weekend (made the more poignant because he died suddenly months later). Several years later, Bud and Jack Davis (another strong influence in my understanding of the war), invited me to speak at a Campaigning with General Lee event which was one of most enjoyable professional experiences I ever had–and I made Bud laugh (!) (he didn’t realize as he was trying to help fix the mic on my lapel that it was “hot” and said a few colorful things). When I responded with a joke, and the audience laughed, he realized the situation and laughed. After my talk, he came up and gave me a peck on cheek and thanked me. But it’s his discipline and seriousness about teaching history that I consciously try to bring into the classroom and into my writing all the time. I realize how fortunate I am that our paths crossed and such an impressionable time in my college career.

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.

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 the first time really understood the battle. He was a wonderful teacher and a brilliant man. We were blessed with his presence as our guest speaker in Montross the 1st weekend in October. My wife and I were fortunate to have these few hours with Bud and Betty. America has lost one of her greatest historians ever.

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 he was nice enough to sign several of his books. R.I.P., Dr. Robertson.

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.

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 my first year. He always taught us that if we couldn’t understand the stories and emotion of the Civil War we could never understand the war. In no other class did I see more students moved to tears by history as in his.

With Bud’s passing the university, Commonwealth, and the field of Civil War studies has lost a giant.

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

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!

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.

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 the definition of a southern gentleman, historian, educator, Virginian, and American! He will be sorely missed by me and my family, and I’m confident he’ll be missed greatly by anyone whoever knew him. This entire country has also lost a tremendous asset to American history and education. Our heartfelt condolences to Betty and Bud’s family!

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 audience laughing uncontrollably one minute and have them in tears of sadness in the next minute. Many people here will always be grateful to him for visiting with us and sharing his vast knowledge about the Civil War..
He will be sorely missed not only as a great Hokie but also as a great Virginian and a great American.

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 when he quickly said no freshmen should be in there, I looked forward to each class to find out what stories he would share that day about my favorite time period. So thankful I had the chance to learn from such a brilliant and dedicated scholar.

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 him.

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.”

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.

Paul Quigley, Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies and the James I. Robertson Jr. Associate Professor in Civil War Studiessays:

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.

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.

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