WAØOHR - September 12, 2008

Robert K. Elliott
Liberty, MO

Judge Robert Kenneth Elliott of Liberty, Missouri, went to be with his Lord on September 12, 2008, at Carriage Square Health Care Center in St. Joseph, Missouri, where he resided for the last five and a half years. He was 87 years old.

A lifelong Clay County resident, he served as a judge in Division II of the 7th Judicial Circuit of Missouri in Liberty for 33 years. He was the son of Harden Boone Elliott and Opal (Johnson) Elliott. He was raised on a small farm on Antioch Road with his six brothers and sisters. The farm is in Gladstone, Missouri, and is now known as Happy Rock Park.

He graduated from North Kansas City High School in 1939. He attended the University of Missouri - Columbia through the ROTC program. Following his graduation in 1943, he was assigned to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, for Officer Candidate School. There he trained as an artillery officer and became a pilot flying observation planes. He was assigned to the Army Air Corps as a pilot instructor until the end of World War II. After his discharge from active duty in 1946, he attended the law school at the University of Missouri in Columbia and graduated in 1949. He continued his military service in the Air Force Reserves (Judge Advocate General Corps) stationed at Richards-Gebaur, Scott and Andrews Air Force Bases. He served with distinction and reached the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in 1980. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 1974. He was later inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame at Ft. Sill.

He opened his own law office in 1949 in North Kansas City and then became the city attorney. He was also the attorney for the North Kansas City Memorial Hospital Foundation. He continued in private practice until his appointment to the bench in March of 1958.

In 1953 he married Jane Elizabeth Fox of Barry, Missouri, and they had three children, Lisa, Stuart and Joseph. They lived in North Kansas City for 28 years and then moved to Liberty in 1984. Jane has been his loving wife for nearly 55 years. They enjoyed a wonderful and close marriage. Her care for him over the last eight years of illness has been an extraordinary example of commitment and devotion.

In 1958, he was appointed as judge of the newly formed Division II by Governor James T. Blair. He won his election that year and served from 1958 until his mandatory retirement in 1991. He was the juvenile court judge for 28 of those years. He was known as a fair but demanding judge, and handled numerous significant cases of first impression in the state. He had a deep respect for the judicial system and for the people he served. He was a faculty member of the National Judiciary College. He was a lifelong student of the law, and sought to wisely apply it in every case. He has been heard to comment that once he wrote an opinion he left it to the appellate courts to agree or muddle it up; and he was rarely reversed. During the three decades that he served as judge, he had a positive effect on the lives of countless Clay County citizens, especially the young lives he helped in juvenile court. He always worked to improve the juvenile justice system. He was a former president of the National Juvenile Judges Association, and he led the drive in the 1970s to acquire the first Clay County juvenile facility to keep young people separate from adult detainees.

In 1996, after his retirement, the current juvenile facility was erected and named in his honor, The R. Kenneth Elliott Children's Justice Center. He has received numerous honors and achievements in his lifetime. In 2003 he received the first Alexander Doniphan Community Service Award in Clay County. It was noted that "his great vision, coupled with his love for people and commitment to justice, made him an ideal recipient for this award." Also, Judge Elliott was described as "a paragon of professionalism and human decency."

He was a member of many community and historical organizations, including the Missouri Historical Society, Missouri State Parks Board, Watkins Mill Association, and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. He was the founding president of the William C Corum Chapter of the Missouri Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

His hobbies included amateur radio (his call sign was WAØOHR ("Old Ham Radio")), for which he taught radio and electronics classes; history (he loved to read historical and biographical books and was considered an "expert" on local Clay County hero Alexander Doniphan); and, in his younger years, sports cars. He always enjoyed an excursion in a private plane. He was also an avid golfer and was once club champion at Liberty Hills Country Club.

Though he had many successes and achievements, he rarely spoke of his own accomplishments. On the other hand, when he introduced you to someone else, he always went to great lengths to express their accomplishments. He loved his family. He enjoyed games, golf outings, meals together and friends. He absolutely loved to simply talk with people. He could strike up a genuine conversation with everyone from an important politician or military officer to the mechanic working on his car. Never forgetting his roots on the farm, he had great admiration for any honest, hardworking person, regardless of their station in life.

He loved to tell the story of the day President Harry Truman was speaking at a gathering and took the time to introduce his mother, Opal Elliott, who was in the audience.

He is survived by his wife, Jane, of the home; children Lisa Elliott and her husband Rick Gibbins of Denver Colorado, Stuart Elliott of Liberty, Missouri, and Joseph Elliott and his wife Marlene of St. Joseph, Missouri; as well as four grandchildren, Peter and Logan Gibbins, Audrey Elliott Dimmel and her husband Fred, and Katelin Elliott. Most recently, he was blessed with a great grandson, Solomon Joseph Dimmel. Because of his love for history and his Lord Jesus Christ, instead of flowers, we suggest donations to the Clay County Archives in Liberty, Missouri, or the Gideons International in Nashville, Tennessee.

A visitation will be held from 5-8 p.m. Saturday, September 13, at the Park Lawn Northland Chapel, I-35 (exit 17) at M-291 Highway, Liberty. A service celebrating Judge Elliott's life will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, September 14, at the chapel. Burial with military honors will be Monday in Fairview Cemetery in Liberty.