Robert Wright Armstrong, railroad executive, soldier, and musician, son of Walter David and Mary Elizabeth (Wright) Armstrong, was born in Brownwood, Texas, on December 18, 1892. He received his education in the Brownwood public schools, at Kemper Military Academy in Boonville, Missouri, and at the Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Missouri. He played in the school bands at Brownwood and at the Missouri Military Academy, where he also directed the band and orchestra. After graduation he performed with the Kryl Concert Band, the Honey Boy Evans Minstrels, and the Al G. Fields Minstrels. When he was tired of performing he moved to the Neil O'Brien Minstrels to become first the assistant manager and then the manager. Later while working as manager of the Brownwood Chamber of Commerce (1919–24), he organized the Old Gray Mare Band, which became the official band of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce.
Although he joined the Brownwood Chamber of Commerce after World War I, Armstrong did not remain there for long. In 1924, at the request of John A. Hulen, whom he had met during military training at Camp Bowie in Fort Worth, he worked for the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway as general agent, with assignments in Fort Worth (1924–28), Houston (1928–32), and New Orleans, Louisiana (1932–36). Afterwards he was general freight agent for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy in Denver, Colorado (1936–38), and in St. Louis, Missouri (1938–43). After active duty in World War II Armstrong served as executive assistant from 1945 to 1948 with the Burlington lines. He served as vice president of the Fort Worth and Denver Railway Company (1948–62). He retired in December 1962. In addition to his connection with the Fort Worth and Denver, Armstrong also was a director of the Houston Belt and Terminal Company of Dallas and a member of the Board of Control of the Port Terminal Railroad Association of Houston.
The former military-school cadet was active in both world wars. He served overseas with the 142nd Infantry, Thirty-sixth Division, of the United States Army during World War I and achieved the rank of lieutenant. During World War II he was commissioned a major in the Transportation Corps and then assigned to the Twenty-sixth Regulating Station as rail officer. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service overseas. He was also active in the National Guard.
Armstrong was a member of civic clubs in Fort Worth and Houston and the Western Railway Club of Chicago. He was active in the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and was president of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce from 1952 to 1954. In addition, he belonged to the Sons of the American Revolution and the Thirty-sixth Division Association (of which he was president in 1947–48). He also served from 1961 to 1966 on the board of directors of Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) and was chairman of that board from 1964 to 1966. Armstrong was a Methodist. He married Nannie Pauline Lusher on April 23, 1918, and they had three children. He died on September 15, 1966, in Fort Worth and was buried there in Greenwood Cemetery.
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Seymour V. Connor, ed., Builders of the Southwest (Lubbock: Southwest Collection, Texas Technological College, 1959). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 7, 1949. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, September 16, 1966. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Texas in the 1920s
World War II
Texas Post World War II
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Michael Q. Hooks,
“Armstrong, Robert Wright,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994
Most Recent Revision Date:
October 15, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: