(THIS COLUMN IS DEDICATED TO REVIEWING THE LIVES OF FORMER GREEENBRIER MILITARY SCHOOL CADETS, FACULTY, EMPLOYEES, OR AFFILIATES)
While at my winter home in the Pebble Creek Golf Resort, Goodyear, Arizona, last March 2009, I put out a message on the intra-community e-net asking if anyone knew anybody that had attended Greenbrier Military School. I got a response from Isabel Giardina and Garnett MacInnes, daughters of Robert L. Hundley, Class of 1929. We met at my home and they brought the 1929 Brier Patch for me to read, which I found fascinating. Bob Hundley’s life was highly interesting and I asked his daughters to tell me about it. I thought it was something you would like to hear and hope you enjoy the extraordinary story of one of our Cadets from the Class of ’29.
Deak Roberts ’56
Garnett MacInnes and Isabel Giardina
(Daughters of Robert Lyell Hundley)
Robert Lyell Hundley, Greenbrier Military School, Class of 1929, was born July 14th, “Bastille Day”, 1913. His father, Dr. Preston G. Hundley of Lynchburg, VA always thought that Robert would follow in his footsteps and into his large medical practice, but when “Bob”, as he became known, returned home one day at age sixteen and mentioned that he had soloed that day, unbeknownst to his parents that he had ever been up in an airplane, it became evident that Bob had a mind of his own. That was the beginning of a future destined to be in the sky flying airplanes.
Before GMS, Bob demonstrated superior intelligence. After a year with a Private Tutor, he entered school in the 4th Grade. At Age 11, he entered high school at Virginia Episcopal School, a college prep school in Lynchburg, VA. How he went from there to Greenbrier Military School for his Junior and Senior years is unknown. At GMS, Bob was at a distinct disadvantage. Being so young, with the accompanying immaturity, Bob became acquainted with “The Beat” early and often. In his two years at “The Brier”, Bob never advanced beyond the rank of Private, and with all his brilliance, he did not distinguish himself academically. But in the end, he distinguished himself quite well. According to Bob, all that time on “The Beat” helped perfect his drilling ability and he was the 1929 winner of the R.O.T.C. Medal and was the Best Drilled Cadet at Greenbrier Military School.
Like most Cadets after GMS, Bob went to college. A semester at UVA, membership in Phi Kappa Sigma , a leadership and social fraternity, and graduation from Lynchburg College was followed by marriage to southern beauty, Weenona Hanson Heflin of Birmingham, Alabama. He became more mature and serious minded which enabled him to achieve a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Curtin Wright Technical Institute in California, with subsequent employment at Lockheed Aircraft in Los Angeles, and the Glen L. Martin Company in Baltimore, MD, who produced war planes for the Navy.
Building aircraft was only the beginning of Bob’s career in the air. He had never lost his love of flying, and when war with Hitler’s Germany was upon our British Allies, Bob joined the Royal Air Force and became a flying instructor for British Cadets in Tuscaloosa, AL. In 1943, he joined our own Army Air Corps, was commissioned a First Lieutenant, and placed in charge of the flying instructors at the Central Instructors School, Randolph Air Field near San Antonio, TX.
His leadership in flight instruction came to an end in 1945 when he was placed in charge of Squadron Operations for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and later during the Korean War, flew 56 missions out of Okinawa. He was promoted to Major and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After nearly three years on Okinawa, he did several years commanding an Air Refueling Squadron at MacDill Air Base in Tampa, FL, and served at a base near Lake Charles, LA, as well as some Temporary Duty in French Morroco and England. Bob wound up his active duty after promotion to Lt. Colonel and serving as Director of Operations at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base. He retired at age 43.
Bob tried the civilian life away from flying by serving a tumultuous time as Owner and President of a Coca Cola Bottling Company in Port Henry, New York. That wasn’t for him, so he returned to his true love….flying, and joined the East Coast Flying Service of Martinsburg, VA. He had a great time flying GE Executives and people like Katherine Graham, owner of Newsweek and the Washington Post. He also got a contract to fly NASA people from Florida to Texas. Then, he struck gold. He became Chief Pilot for the great entertainer, Ray Charles. He commanded a Learjet and a Martin 404. It was said his crews always appreciated his great flying skills. He spent the last years of his career teaching a flight school for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and flying odd jobs as he pleased.
Robert Lyell “Bob” Hundley passed away at his home in San Diego at Age 78 on February16,1992.
Bob Hundley was a genuine enigma. He was brilliant, yet did not distinguish himself academically at Greenbrier Military School. He spent an inordinate amount of time on “The Beat”, yet used it to become the perfect R.O.T.C. Cadet and winner of the GMS Military Medal for 1929. He was at GMS for two years and became the best-drilled Cadet in the School, yet never advanced beyond the rank of Private. Truly an enigma.
How Bob got to GMS is a mystery. It is certain Major R. W. “Bullsh*t Bob” Keene couldn’t claim responsibility. He didn’t get to GMS until 1938. Hundley can be thought of as a typical Greenbrier graduate in that after the exposure to a Greenbrier education, discipline, Leadership skills, and the belief in Duty, Truth, & Honor, he went on to higher education and emerged later as a Leader in his chosen field of endeavor.
Hundley used to jokingly tell his children that “The Beat” was responsible for his becoming the best drilled Cadet and the earning of the R.O.T.C. medal. It was certainly more fact than fiction. The truth is that Bob was just too young and quite immature when he came to Greenbrier as a Junior in High School. The immaturity explains the excessive time on “The Beat”. Bob, however, did something that few Cadets, if any, ever did, and that was utilize his situation and time on “The Beat” to eventually become the best drilled Cadet in the school. That probably had not happened before and, perhaps, never since.
In spite of all the adversity, I think Bob had a excellent sense of humor. A humorous section in the ’29 Brier Patch known as “The Horror-Scope!” asked each Senior his Ambition, Probable End, Hobby and Sport. Bob listed his as follows:
|Probable End||Broken Neck” - underlined with “(I don’t mind)”.|
All the above relate to what Bob was famous for : Walkin’ “The Beat”.
Sport was “Volleyball”. Volleyball was an Intramural Sport, and it is not known whether he excelled in it or not. Intramural Sports did not even get a mention in the ’29 Yearbook.
Robert Lyell Hundley ’29, had an exceptionally successful life. He got a good education, served his country with distinction in positions of Leadership, raised a wonderful family, pursued the love of his life, flying, and as was indicated earlier in these remarks, he lived a life of Duty, Truth, and Honor, indicative of the life of a typical Greenbrier Military School graduate.
Deak Roberts ‘56