Robert Leo Bailey passed away peacefully in Gainesville, Florida, on May 23, 2022. He was 95.
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.
I remember several of the things he invented, made, built or put into action for the benefit of others or just because he had an idea. (Not all I’m sure because I imagine the list was longer than I knew!) I do remember the airplane build as well when I was quite young. Fascinating!
He was An extremely kind & intelligent man I was proud to call my uncle. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. My love & condolences go out to Linda & Bob (Wheeler) and all his grandchildren & great grandchildren. And all will miss his bits of daily humor! Otherwise I have no words- this loss is great.
Cyndi Bailey Palmer
I also remember all the things that he built and created and I cherish his engineering textbooks. I visited him about 7 years ago from Memphis and he was still active in his projects around the house, his woodworking shop and research projects set up in his living room. He never stopped learning and researching. I was proud to also call him my uncle. He will be missed by so many that knew him and he so loved Gainesville, the University, teaching, faculty and students. My love and condolences go out to Linda and Bob Wheeler and all his grandchildren and great grandchildren. It is a great loss but his legacy will live on for years to come.
Fly high Uncle Bob, your I also remember all the things that he built and created and I cherish his engineering textbooks. I visited him about 7 years ago from Memphis and he was still active in his projects around the house, his woodworking shop and research projects set up in his living room. He never stopped learning and researching. I was proud to also call him my uncle. He will be missed by so many that knew him and he so loved Gainesville, the University, teaching, faculty and students. My love and condolences go out to Linda and Bob Wheeler and all his grandchildren and great grandchildren. It is a great loss but his legacy will live on for years to come.
Fly high Uncle Bob, your work on earth is done. Go to heaven and ask them up there if they had their humor break today. I know you’ll have a joke to tell.…. on earth is done. Go to heaven and ask them up there if they’ve had their humor break today. I know you’ll have a joke to tell.
Joyce Bailey Beggs
Professor Baily had a profound and long lasting influence on my life. We socialized and remained friends over the last 40 years. Bob Bailey was my major professor, and the door to his office was always open to students from early morning until late afternoon. He loved the interaction with his students and they loved him. He was an Engineer’s Engineer always solving problems in a very practical hands on way, rather than a computer generated theoretical heavy math way, and strongly encouraged all his students to do the same. Professor Bailey co-authored a patent with NASA on the texturing of solar cell surfaces to increase their performance which is still used today and gives solar cells that bluish crystalline appearance.
He authored 2 textbooks and was a pioneer in Alternate Energy Sources long before the gas shortage and rationing we all experienced in 1973. His 2nd book, Creative Problem Solving was primarily on patent law and thinking outside of the box, and was undoubtedly the reason I was fortunate enough to acquire 8 patents. I give sole credit to my friend and mentor Professor Bob Bailey. I loved him and I will miss him.