Cover photo for Robert O. Riggs's Obituary
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1942 Robert 2022

Robert O. Riggs

October 15, 1942 — April 20, 2022

In the words of Walt Whitman: “O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done.”

Bob Riggs was truly the captain of his soul and of his ship. He navigated his life with exemplary character, a kind heart, and a joyful spirit. Throughout his 79 years on this earth, Bob skillfully managed calm seas and stormy waters knowing that rough seas make great captains. And, Bob was a great captain. Always striving to make a difference, Bob made an impact on the lives of many.

Bob was an accomplished educator, a proud Marine veteran, an experienced boater, prolific author, and a well-versed historian with a deep interest in the Civil War. He was a student of life, constantly curious and on a continuous journey of learning. Bob was always willing to lend a hand to family, friends, and strangers.

Bob Riggs was born October 15, 1942, in Portland, Tennessee, to Sue and Clyde Riggs. He graduated from Sumner County High School where he earned Eagle Scout rank, was senior class president and football team captain. He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in physics and astronomy and held leadership roles with Phi Kappa Sigma Fraternity and the Naval ROTC Unit. Bob earned his masters and doctoral degrees at the University of Memphis where he served as a graduate assistant and research fellow in the Office of the President, and president of the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society.

Bob was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He is a combat Vietnam veteran and completed 30 years of commissioned service retiring with the rank of Colonel. He always said his Military service was his proudest career accomplishment. Bob’s many military honors and recognitions include a Navy Commendation Medal for meritorious service and a meritorious service medal awarded by President George H.W. Bush.

His academic career began at James Madison University, Harrisonburg VA, where he ascended to the position of Dean, School of Education, and Professor of Education. Bob was then named President of Austin Peay University, Clarksville TN, a position he held for 11 years. He then served as Regents Professor in the department of leadership at the University of Memphis. Bob is the author of more than 30 books, monographs, and refereed professional articles.

Bob shared his joy of life, his unbridled passion for Alabama football and his love of boating with his wife of 25 years, Vicki. He rarely missed a Crimson Tide game and often served as an “armchair coach” for Coach Nick Saban.

Together, Bob and Vicki cruised more than 27,000 miles aboard their trawler to the Florida Keys and Bahamas, they completed the Great American Loop and did extensive voyaging on the Western River System. Bob holds a U.S. Coast Guard Masters License and Vicki and Bob are two-time recipients of Yachtsman of the Year Awards. Bob was recently named Fleet Captain at the Isles Yacht Club, Punta Gorda.

Bob died unexpectedly on April 20 as he was tinkering with his beloved boat at the Isles Yacht Club just down the street from home. Bob and Vicki had returned from a weekend boating trip and Bob always needed to make sure that every inch of Si Como No was clean and shiny.

Before relocating to Punta Gorda nearly 2 years ago, Bob and Vicki lived in Fairhope, AL where Bob was a volunteer with City government including serving as a member and chair of the City Educational Advisory Committee, member and chair of the City Harbor Board and member of the City Finance Committee. He was named Fairhope 2020 volunteer of the year.

He is survived by the love of his life, Vicki; daughter Susan Riggs, son Robert Riggs Jr, and 3 granddaughters. Bob was preceded in death by his brother Bill and his parents.

A Celebration of Life service will be held at the Isles Yacht Club, 1780 West Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda, on Wednesday, May 4 at 11 AM.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, the nation’s oldest and largest provider of need-based scholarships to military children, www.mcsf.org/donate or 909 N. Washington St, Suite 400, Alexandria VA 22314.

Cremation services are being provided by Johnson-Taylor Funeral & Cremation, Punta Gorda. A Military burial will be held at a later date at the Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72, Sarasota.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Robert O. Riggs, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

11:00am - 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Graveside Service

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

11:00 - 11:30 am (Eastern time)

Sarasota National Cemetery

9810 Florida 72, Sarasota, FL 34241

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