Robert Lee Bowen Jr.

Robert Lee Bowen Jr. (MC) died on January 22, 2017, in Fort Worth, Texas. He was 66. He spent most of his career in the education department at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and served as assistant to the museum’s director.

His obituary published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is available below and at



John McLacken (MC) and Roger Rosenthal (MC) report the sad news that our classmate Bob Bowen (MC) passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, after a brief illness, on January 22, 2017 in his home town of Fort Worth, Texas. Robert Lee Bowen, Jr. grew up in Fort Worth and attended Fort Worth Country Day School, where he graduated as class Valedictorian.

At Yale he pursued the prestigious History, the Arts, and Letters (HAL) major, was a member of the Elizabethan Club, and made many lifelong friends in a broad range of people from classes 1970 through 1975. Bob spent one summer during college working and researching at the Prado Museum in Madrid. After Yale, Bob earned his Master’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin and soon thereafter moved to Washington, DC where he worked at the National Gallery of Art. Before long his unique talents were recognized and he became Special Assistant to famed director J. Carter Brown. While in this position, Bob met countless interesting and notable people who visited the Museum. On one such occasion, Bob made a personal contribution to Glasnost, diplomatically conducting a private Gallery tour for First Ladies Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev. Following Mr. Brown’s retirement, Bob eventually returned to Fort Worth, working for the Kimball Museum and doing a variety of special consulting projects. 

Bob was known for many things, not the least of which were his joyful and hilarious storytelling, his consummate skill as a host, his unsurpassed wit, and his infectious charm. But Bob was most cherished as a very loyal friend who, for example, dropped everything to fly halfway across the country to help a friend recover from a hospital stay. Bob was always supportive, never forgot a birthday, and in freshman year, saved the sanity, and probably the Yale career, of at least one fellow freshman. To know and benefit from Bob’s caring friendship and love was to bask in the light of a warm sun, to feel very special, to believe that somehow you must be better than you knew or thought you were. He leaves behind a terrible void in a large group of friends who are shocked and deeply saddened by his sudden passing.

Obituary published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Robert Lee Bowen Jr.

FORT WORTH— Robert Lee Bowen Jr. died Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, after a brief hospitalization.

Graveside service: 3 p.m. Friday in Greenwood Memorial Park.

He was born in Breckenridge on Aug. 26, 1950, to Isabel Weaver Bowen and Robert Lee Bowen Sr. He was valedictorian, Class of 1968, at Fort Worth Country Day School and was a graduate of Yale University in 1972. He continued his art history studies at the University of Texas before being hired in the Education Department at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. There he excelled at the diplomatic maneuvering among visiting dignitaries as he personally guided them through the exhibits. He recounted one highly charged time when he was leading Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev and they kept trying to one up the other.

Bob’s warmth, wit, impeccable social skills and intellect brought him to the attention of J. Carter Brown, the museum director, and Bob was his assistant until Brown’s retirement. With his writing skills, Bob was often called to “ghost write” introductions to books published by the National Gallery to which famous people signed their names.

After Bob returned to Fort Worth, local museums often consulted him for ideas on dinners before a new exhibit opened. Bob was an amazing raconteur and storyteller and an invitation to his home for dinner was highly prized. His Christmas trees (which often fell over due to all the ornaments he artfully piled on) were the stuff of legend.

A man with a heart bigger than Texas, leaves behind a burgeoning group of friends who will always treasure their time with him.

The family would like to extend special thanks and appreciation to Dr. Robert Kelly and Maria Villegas for their compassion and support.

Survivors: Many cousins in Montana plus Melinda Lewis Hassen and her husband, Thomas E. Hassen, of Palm Beach, Fla., Marilyn Weaver Lewis of Virginia Beach, Va., and John L. Lewis Jr. and his wife, Dana Lewis, of Fort Worth.

Greenwood Funeral Home 

3100 White Settlement Road, 817-336-0584 

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