Bob Fishburn '55, 1934-2012
In the feature stories, editorials, blog entries and obituaries that have been written about the passing of Washington and Lee alumnus Bob Fishburn, of the Class of 1955, the adjectives used most consistently have been “passionate,” “gentle” and “generous.”
Bob died on Saturday, March 24, of complications from lung cancer. He was 77.
After graduating from W&L, Bob attended Columbia University and served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. Once he returned to Roanoke in 1960, he joined the family business as a staff reporter for the Roanoke Times and World-News. His family owned the Roanoke papers for six decades. Bob worked as a copy editor, a state editor and an assistant city editor. He was named editorial page editor at the World-News in 1969 and then became commentary page editor in 1977, when the two papers merged.
In an editorial about Fishburn’s passing in the Roanoke Times, former colleague Geoff Seamans called him “one of those old-school guys, one of the gentle, bespectacled purveyors of the culture.”
And on his blog, Fromtheeditr, another former Roanoke Times colleague, Dan Smith, wrote this about Bob: “He was a marvelous writer at a time when writing was a significant strength of the paper, and I don’t know that he ever aspired to anything more than that in the business. He was one of those rare birds who finds a comfortable limb and stays put.”
As much as for his newspaper work, Bob was known for his philanthropy in the Roanoke area. As his son-in-law, Michael Farr, told the Roanoke Times in its A-1 story, “He was an advocate of anything that would be good for Roanoke, and he was pretty passionate about it.”
Bob was also a strong advocate of his alma mater. Back in the mid-1970s, he worked closely with the W&L Alumni Affairs Office to rejuvenate the Roanoke Alumni Chapter. He also returned to campus often to attend Alumni Colleges and frequently traveled with the University’s Traveller program.