Robert "Bob" Utley served for 25 years in various capacities with the National Park Service and other federal agencies. Since his retirement from the federal government in 1980, he has devoted himself full time to historical research and writing. His specialty is the history of the American West. Ten of Bob's books have been selections of the History Book Club, eight of the Book of the Month Club.
Bob was born in Arkansas October 31, 1929, but reared in Indiana. He attended Purdue and Indiana Universities (BS 1951, MA 1952). Bob spent six collegiate summers as a ranger-historian at Custer Battlefield National Monument, Montana, now Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. He first pinned on the silver park ranger badge (not the present gold one) in June 1947 and took it off in September 1952 to be drafted into the U.S. Army. Bob also served four years, both as an enlisted man and an officer. Although trained as an infantryman, he served the final two years (plus one as a civilian), as a historian for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon.
Bob returned to the National Park Service in permanent status in September 1957 and served, successively, as Regional Historian of the Southwest Region in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1957-64; as Chief Historian in Washington DC, 1964-72; as Director, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, 1972-73; and as Assistant Director of the National Park Service for Park Historic Preservation, 1973-76. From 1977 to 1980 he was Deputy Executive Director of the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
One of the founders of the Western History Association, Bob served on its governing council 1962-74 and as its president 1967-68. He was a member of the editorial board of The American West Magazine, 1964-80. The Western Historical Quarterly was launched during my presidency, and Bob served on its editorial board 1968-73. Bob was also a founder of the Potomac Corral of the Westerners Club in 1955 and its sheriff in 1973, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Eastern National Park and Monument Association 1985-87 and 1989-92. He has appeared frequently on television productions related to the history of the West (Real West, for example, and How the West Was Lost, as well as others on the History, Discovery, and other channels).
In 1974 Purdue University awarded Bob an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree, followed by the University of New Mexico in 1976 and Indiana University in 1981. In 1971 Bob received the Department of the Interior's Distinguished Service Award.
Since 1980 Bob has been married to Melody Webb, also a National Park Service veteran and also a historian.