Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Robert Lawrence

Robert Lawrence

Honored May 2001

Robert 'Bob' Lawrence

Bob Lawrence has lived his 79 years with a simple philosophy: You cannot just sit and take. "I feel that to live in a community, you need to be a part of it," Lawrence said.

A Santa Fe resident since his retirement 11 years ago, Lawrence has not had much time to sit. He became a professional volunteer after a lifetime devoted to education as a teacher, counselor, administrator and finally the deputy superintendent for public instruction in the state of California.

It may be his work with special education classes at E.J. Martinez School and as a homework helper at Ortiz Middle School that earned him the nomination as a Santa Fe Living Treasure. Or it could be his volunteer work with Hospice and the Charles "Cocoa" Maxwell Junior Memorial Scholarship Fund for track athletes.

Before Lawrence became an educator, he was one of the original Tuskegee airmen, a group of 250 black pilots and crewmen who flew fighter planes in World War 11 without losing a single one to enemy action.

At 18, Lawrence said he was interested in aviation and the opportunity to fly and was not thinking so much about breaking military racial barriers.

But, he said, the experience "raised or supported personal self-esteem" for those involved. And it demonstrated that, "We as blacks can do as well as anyone else and in many cases better." Back then, he added, "It wasn't as easily and readily recognized that we had those capabilities.

Story by Richard McCord
Photo © 2001 Steve Northup