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Robert Billings

Born: February 17, 1937, in Salina, Kansas; Died: February 13, 2003

Robert Billings was born February 17, 1937, in Salina, Kansas, to Alva and Margaret Billings. He grew up in Russell where he attended high school. There he was president of the student council and a delegate to Kansas Boys State. He was also active in sports, playing football and basketball, and running in track all four year of high school. During his senior year in 1955, Billings was made co-captain of the football team and was named Kansas High School Basketball Player of the Year.

Billings attended the University of Kansas and majored in economics, business, and political science. He was a Summerfield scholar, student body president, and inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa liberal arts and sciences honor society. He was also elected president of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and was named outstanding graduate in 1959 by the national fraternity. He also continued his athletic career serving as guard on the varsity basketball team, playing alongside Wilt Chamberlain. During the 1956-1957 school year, Billings and his fellow teammates played in the 1957 NCAA Final Four.

In spring 1959 Billings earned his bachelor's degree and entered graduate school. Chancellor W. Clarke Wescoe appointed Billings as director of student financial aid and awards office where he served from 1960-1970. In the mid-1960s Billings created a partnership with realtor John McGrew and Mel Anderson to develop thousands of acres of land in west Lawrence, a project called Alvamar in honor of his parents. Billings and his partners developed more than 3,000 acres of commercial and residential property, a nationally acclaimed golf course, and Alvamar Country Club complex. He also created Oread West Corporation and Research Park at 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive.

Billings was described “as a positive, generous, and unselfish benefactor of the community . . .,” according to Craig Weinaug, Douglas County administrator, who said Billings was “a man with an incredible amount of integrity and with an incredible love for Lawrence . . .” Weinaug recalled multiple instances where Billings would point out vulnerable areas that needed protecting to preserve the best interest of the public even at the expense of his own business interests.

Billings served on the board of directors for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, the chamber of commerce, and many other non-profits. He advocated for the Douglas County Community Foundation. Billings received the University of Kansas and alumni association’s Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 1984 and the distinguished service citation in 1988. A year later, he was name Kansan of the Year by the Native Sons and Daughters. He received the Don Volker Award for Community Leadership. In 1998 Billings was also given the Substantial Citizen Award from the Lawrence Kiwanis Club and four years later he was named the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year for 2002.

Billings died February 13, 2003, in Lawrence.

Entry: Billings, Robert

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2013

Date Modified: January 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.