Robert Edwin HILBURN(1923 - 2014)

HILBURN, Robert Edwin

Nov. 10, 1923-May 17, 2014

Robert (Bob) Edwin Hilburn, devoted husband, loving father and doting grandfather, died surrounded by family early on Saturday, May 17th, 2014.

A native of Wichita Falls, he was the only child of R. E. Hilburn, M.D., and Mae McMurtry Hilburn. He graduated from Wichita Falls High School in 1940 as president of his senior class, and pursuing an accelerated wartime course of study, he received a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri in 1943.

Bob's first newspaper job was as a cub reporter for the Wichita Falls Daily Times in 1942. In Missouri, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was assigned as the youngest combat correspondent after training at Parris Island, Camp Lejeune, Quantico, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Joining the Eighth Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division, on Saipan, Marinanas Islands, he served during the pacification of Saipan, Tinia, the invasion of Okinawa, Ryukas Islands and the occupation of Japan. On Okinawa, he was the only newsman present when Army General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Corps commander of the invasion forces, was killed by an enemy artillery round at a forward command post of the Eighth Marines. In Japan, he went ashore at Nagasaki, only a few days after the atomic bomb leveled the city.

After several months in Japan, he was reassigned to the public information office of the Department of the Pacific in San Francisco as the N.C.O. in-charge and served in that capacity until receiving an honorable discharge on August 28, 1946, with a rating of Technical Sergeant. In 1948, Bob married Frances Elizabeth Chapman in San Francisco. Bob moved back to Fort Worth, Texas where he began his newspaper career at the Fort Worth Star Telegram progressing from police and court coverage to investigative work that helped lead to the end of gambling and the ouster of several public officials in Tarrant County. They had a son, Robert Bruce in 1952. Betty later died from multiple sclerosis.

On December 31, 1961, Bob married Mary Jeanette Betts in Fort Worth. In 1962, he was given leave of absence to serve as press secretary for John Connolly, governor candidate in the Democratic primary. Politics, local, state and national continued to demand his attention, and he covered a handful of legislative sessions and several presidential conventions. In 1963, the Fort Worth Star Telegram sent him to Washington to bolster its national reporting, and Bob soon found himself head of a bureau operating a consortium of five Texas newspapers under the tutelage of Bascom Timmons, a giant of Texas journalism.

Bob was in the White House press bus in the presidential cavalcade when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and wrote the lead story with its electrifying details and starkness of truth. Bob then directed extensive coverage of the 1964 presidential campaign that put LBJ in the White House. In 1965, he left the pressures of the bureau and returned to Texas to become Editorial Manager of the The Daily Texan at U.T., where he served until retiring in 1985.

His family would like to give special thanks to Dr. Stephen Hardeman and Dolores Chacon, his caregiver. He is survived by his wife, Jeanette Hilburn, two sons, Robert Bruce Hilburn and James Betts Hilburn, two daughters, Mary Kathryn Hilburn and Sidney Mae Hilburn; and one much beloved grandson "Danny" Finnegan Palmer, all who reside in Austin.

Known for a twinkle in his eye, his disarming dry wit, his love of gardening, he had a colorful perspective on life. Bob was patient, kind, gentle, creative, and very sharp. Animals were uncommonly drawn to him and at times seemed like an animal "whisperer". He was a gifted storyteller, a marine to the very end, and a true gentleman who will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

There will be a private graveside service in Wichita Falls. A memorial service will be held at a later date in Austin.

Donations may be directed to Therapy PetPals of Texas, 3930 Bee Caves Road, Suite C, Austin, Texas 78746.

Obituary and guestbook available online at

Funeral Home

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Homes & Cremation Services - Austin
3125 N Lamar Blvd. Austin, TX 78705
(512) 452-8811

Published in Austin American-Statesman from May 25 to May 26, 2014