Our great friend and colleague Robert F. Dorr stepped into the clearing June 12, 2016, at Fairfax INOVA hospital, after a brave and stoic battle with brain cancer. Bob was a legend: airman, diplomat, great and prolific writer, and a great friend. He was a happy warrior who loved his Air Force and his country and would go toe to toe with anyone over his beliefs. We worked on more than 100 articles together over more than 20 years, and it was always my privilege to be able to print and illustrate his words, often with photos he provided himself from his vast collection. He flew in 128 different types of aircraft during his lifetime, and loved writing about them as much as he loved flying in them.
I first met Bob in 1996, when I was just a junior editor with an avocation for military history working for a small publishing company. I had read some of his books, and I was somewhat in awe. I remember him pointing out a bookcase in his house and telling the story of how he decided to see if he could write and publish enough books to fill a single shelf of it. The shelf was already filled when he told me the story, and he wrote, over his lifetime, some 80 books, enough to fill an entire bookcase. He also wrote thousands of articles, stories, and columns, some fictional, written during the heyday of men’s magazines, and many more about the Air Force, military history, aerospace, and defense subjects. Bob published his first story at 16, served in the Air Force, and then spent 24 years as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, writing all the while.
Bob was a relative rarity in the defense and military sphere – a progressive who believed in a strong defense to protect from threats abroad, but also that there were battles to be fought right here at home in protecting Americans’ constitutional rights. He was sometimes dismayed by a world where he believed people were increasingly happy to give up freedom in exchange for the illusion of safety, but never, ever daunted. He fought his corner fiercely, never backed down from his viewpoints or his causes in the face of heavy odds, and gained the respect if not the everlasting love of those who disagreed with him. He was deeply proud of his Air Force service, and deeply protective of his Air Force. When he saw something wrong, he sought to right it, and when he saw something he thought detrimental to the Air Force, he called it as he saw it, and wrote about it, no matter who might be arrayed on the other side of the line. He was a crusader for freedom of the press and journalistic integrity, and fought against the mania for secrecy that has become a condition of our lives today in our republic.
While Bob didn’t suffer fools and he didn’t back off from a fight, he also laughed easily and often. He was inevitably cheerful when I spoke to him, and more often than not made light of his problems and himself. He was gracious with his time and wisdom, and never made a young, inexperienced editor feel stupid or incompetent, always offering enthusiastic encouragement, and ideas. When he was clearing out his library and his photo collection and donating them, he told me he found himself unable to throw out many of the magazines we’d made together. The worth of the work I’d been doing for a couple of decades was tremendously increased by those words, and it was a measure of his grace that he’d bothered to say them at all when he had much larger issues on his mind.
I can only tell about the small part I knew of Bob’s life, as a writer I worked with over many years, knew and respected. He was much more than that, I know, but others can tell that story better than I can. When someone like Bob departs this world, it leaves a great hole, and I know his family, including his beloved Autumn McDoggimus, and his many friends will miss him deeply. There will never be another like him, and while all of us who were lucky enough to know him in this life will miss him, we will have happy memories of his spirit, grace, humor, and talent.
Ceiling and visibility unlimited, Bob.