Robert Morin Shoemaker was born on the family farm located at the corner of Shoemaker Road (named for his grandparents) and West Road (now called General Squier Road), one mile west of downtown Almont on February 18, 1924, to Uriah Beebe Shoemaker and Pomala Orda Morin Shoemaker. He joined older sister Betsey and was joined later by brothers Jack and Tom.

Pomala Orda Morin Shoemaker was a teacher and basketball coach at Almont in the 1910s. During World War I she was the school’s superintendent– one of the first female superintendents in the State of Michigan. She later was one of the first females elected to a Board of Education in the State of Michigan.

Uriah Beebe Shoemaker with his partner, Frank Ring, operated the hardware store on the southeast corner downtown (now
Fountain Park) in the 1920s. At the early stages of “The Depression” Uriah and Frank determined that the store could not support two families. Frank took over the store and Uriah went back to operating the family 80-acre dairy farm on a full time basis.

The location of the farm meant that Robert could have gone west to the Spangler School or east to the new school in Almont. He went into town. He played the snare drum in the high school band and later with the “Royal Rubes”. In high school he played football, basketball and baseball and was an All-league selection for baseball. He graduated in 1941 at age seventeen. My mother was his date to his Senior Prom.

After graduation, he first went to work at Bowman’s Drug Store and then went to Grand Rapids to attend a pharmacy school. In 1943, he was appointed to the military academy at West Point. He graduated in 1946.

After graduation he was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia and underwent parachute and glider training. He was then posted to Germany for three years where he met and married his wife. Upon returning from Germany, he moved through numerous postings in the States before being sent to Korea for about a year beginning in July 1953. He then was posted to Washington, D.C. for two years. His next posting was for two years as a military advisor to the Iranian military.

Upon his return, at Fort Rucker he earned his aviation wings and was instrumental in the design and testing of attack helicopter tactics, which would be employed extensively in Vietnam. While at this post, he helped design the Huey helicopter into a gunship and developed the tactics for its use. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel just prior to being sent to Vietnam from 1962 to 1963 to document Army Aviation accomplishments and potential. He returned to the States to Forts Benning and Rucker before returning to Vietnam as commander of the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment and then the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, both of the 1st Cavalry Division. He was made Executive Officer of the 11th Aviation Group, 1st Cavalry Division just before returning to the States to attend the Army War College for a year. Robert was then transferred to the Office of the Director of Army Aviation during which time he was promoted to full colonel. After this, during his second tour of duty in Vietnam, Bob was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry and extraordinary heroic actions while leading his men out of an ambush.
After being stationed at the Pentagon, he returned to Vietnam as chief of staff of the 1st Cavalry Division and then was promoted to Assistant Division Commander and raised in rank to Brigadier General –one-star. Upon his return to the States, he was stationed at Fort Hood as Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Staff of the III Corp. While there he was made Deputy Commanding General of MASSTER and promoted to Major General–two-stars. In January 1973 he was made the Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division and made Commanding General of III Corp in March 1975. He was then promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General– three stars.

In 1976, he attended Almont’s Homecoming. The homecoming committee had requested that he be the parade’s Grand Marshall, but he preferred to play in the “Royal Rubes”.

In 1977 he was made Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command and was then promoted to Commander in 1978 and given the rank of General–four-star general. He is Michigan’s first four-star general. From the beginnings of the Unites States until his promotion, there had been less than 250 officers promoted to the rank of a four-star general.

On March 1, 1982, Robert retired from the Army after 36 years of service. He retired to his home near Fort Hood, Texas. He was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 1983 and received the West Point Distinguished Graduate Award in 2004. During his Army career he was awarded a Distinguished Service Metal, a Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantry Badge, and Senior Parachutist Badge.

His public service would continue. In 1986 he was elected to the Bell County Board of Commissioners and served for eight years. At that time, the area around Fort Hood lacked the housing, schools, and support services to accommodate an additional 12,000 soldiers and their families that had moved from Fort Polk, Louisiana. He pushed to get a four-year college for the Fort Hood area. Texas A&M University–Central Texas was created in Killeen Texas.

He served as president of the Heart of Texas Council of Boy Scouts of America and president of
the Fort Hood chapter of the United Way. His community work was recognized by the Frank W. Mayborn Humanitarian Award and the Roy J. Smith Award for community service. In 2000, the Killeen Independent School District named its newest high school for General Shoemaker–the Robert M. Shoemaker High School.

In 2005 he served as Grand Marshall for Almont’s Centennial Homecoming. In 2008 he donated his ribbons, medals, and awards to the Almont District Library, where they are on display today. He also conducted the Almont High School band in the performance of the “General Robert Shoemaker March”. Ken C. Wood composed the march in General Shoemaker’s honor.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Belle Valley Community Band will be performing the “General Robert Shoemaker March” at their May 5 concert at the Imlay City School’s Performing Arts Center at 3 p.m. Copies of the “March” will be available for purchase at a later date.

When “The General” was here in 2008, several veterans who had served under him in Vietnam expressed their thanks to him for their safe return. The “Rules of Engagement” and “Standing Orders” he implemented helped save lives and they appreciated his efforts to improve their safety.

In May 2013, Bob and “Tuke” established the Wolf-Warrior Endowed Scholarship Fund at the Central Texas College Foundation. The scholarship pays full tuition for students to attend two years at Central Texas College and two years at Texas A&M University-Central Texas for students from Robert M. Shoemaker High School.

Robert Morin Shoemaker died June 17, 2017. When notified of Bob’s death, television and radio stations carried “Breaking News” announcements of his passing. Tributes and remembrances came from all over the country; from Congressmen, military leaders, local government leaders, the students of his high school and individual people whose lives he touched. His funeral was carried live on at least one of the local television stations.

More than 1,000 people attended the funeral service, which began at 1 p.m. at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. Immediately after the funeral service, the funeral procession, escorted by the Killeen police and Patriot Guard Riders proceeded to the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. Near the entrance to the cemetery, General Shoemaker’s casket was taken from the hearse and loaded onto a caisson pulled by a team of horses, which brought the casket to the gravesite. The casket was led by the 1st Cavalry Division Color Guard. Following the caisson was a riderless horse. At the conclusion of the ceremony, a 17-cannon salute was provided by a battery from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, which was followed by a 21-gun salute from the 1st Cavalry Division and then the playing of taps.
On a personal note, in part, I agreed to become President of the Almont Community Historical Society because of the legacy of General Shoemaker. He was a remarkable individual who performed extraordinary service to our country and he is ours. I believe it is important to teach our students and the community the history of Almont, of which Robert Morin Shoemaker and his family is an important part.

Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or jrwade49@ gmail.com or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.