Born in Demopolis, Alabama in 1927, he graduated from Demopolis High School in 1945. He volunteered for and was accepted into the Navy’s highly selective Radar Training Program. It trained electronic technicians for aircraft carrier duty in the Pacific near the end of WWII. He served on Navy bases at Great Lakes and Chicago, Illinois; Gulfport, Mississippi; and Ward Island, Texas.
Following his Honorable Discharge from the Navy, he entered Auburn University. In his first week there, he met the love of his life, Betty Grady. Following his graduation with a BS degree in Electrical Engineering, they were married on June 7, 1949 in Stroud, Alabama. Their marriage lasted 59 years. He remained in the Naval Reserve until 1951 when he received his second Honorable Discharge.
Bob was hired by General Electric Co. in 1949 as a Test Engineer. He and Betty lived in Philadelphia, Pittsfield, Bridgeport, and Trenton. It was in Trenton where Cliff Reitz and he developed the successful suspension system for General Electric’s low-cost washing machine. The design made it possible for the machine to stay put and not leap across the floor. GE used the design for about 45 years, thereby making low-cost washing machines available to millions.
While in Trenton, Bob was tapped to be a participant in General Electric’s highly selective, elite, Creative Engineering Program, an adventure which greatly influenced the rest of his life. In this period, he and Betty lived in Syracuse, New York, Schenectady, New York, and finally Owensboro, Kentucky. During this time, Bob contributed significantly to the development of color TV and Ultra High Frequency technology.
In 1956, the Lord called Bob to Pinellas County, Florida, as one of the principals in rapidly building a new defensive plant to produce pulse neutron triggers for every atomic weapon the nation then had. It was the beginning of the cold war with the USSR and the technical work was highly complex and secret. Bob served there for four years when the Lord called him from being a designer of atomic weapon “components” to being a teacher. By then, he had faithfully served General Electric for 11 years.
In 1960, he, Betty, and daughters Linda and Carol moved to Gainesville. Here, he earned his Master’s Degree in 1962 and served the University of Florida for 22 years until his retirement in 1982. He retired as a Tenured Associate Professor Emeritus from the Electrical Engineering Department. He was a faculty member of the Electric Energy Engineering Group. He introduced courses in Alternate Energy in 1967 and in 1979 published his “Solar Electrics” book which sold worldwide. It was the first integrated treatment of the subject. He also championed the subject of creativity via a highly popular and controversial senior course, “Creative Problem Solving”. His book, “Disciplined Creativity”, was published in 1978. It clearly stated, for the first time, the methodology of design and invention. The book was translated by the Japanese and Mongolians. Robert loved to teach; and he loved his students.
Robert was a member of Phi Kappa Phi Scholastic Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi Honorary Engineering Society, Eta Kappa Nu Honorary Electrical Engineering Society, a member of IEEE Electrical Engineering Society, Sigma Tau Honorary Research Society, and was inducted into the Solar Hall of Fame in 1993. Bob’s lifelong philosophy was simply, “do the best you can – whatever the task – and let honors creep up on you as a surprise.” His Church home was the First Baptist Church of Gainesville where he served as a Deacon and Sunday School Teacher for many years. His Church and his God were vital parts of Bob’s entire life.
His sweetheart, dearest friend, and wife, Betty, predeceased him in 2008. His daughter, Linda Bailey Wheeler (Robert Wheeler), survives him. His other daughter, Carol Bailey Wise (William Mark Wise), passed away in 2017. His grandchildren include Mark Wise (Jenny, and children Elle, Evan, and Eden), Jennifer Wise Hayes (Matt, and children Madison, Bailey, Evelyn and Ava), Kyle Wheeler (Hilary and children Eddie and Bradley), and Ryan Wheeler (Sarah, and children Leo and Ruby). Bob was predeceased by his parents, Gladys Harlow and Francis Leo Bailey; his brother, James Wade Bailey, and his sister, Margaret Carmack. He is survived by three nieces and one nephew.
The Visitation will be held at 1:15 PM on June 19, 2022 at First Baptist Church, 14105 NW 39th Avenue, Gainesville, Florida. The Church Service will begin at 2:00 PM. Interment will be at Forest Meadows Central, 4100 NW 39th Avenue. There will be a brief Reception at the Church following the graveside service. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that tax-deductible memorial gifts be made to the First Baptist Church.