Former Texas Land Commissioner Bob Armstrong died Sunday night at age 82.
Robert Landis Armstrong served as a Democratic state representative from Austin in the 1960s. He was land commissioner from 1970 to 1982, and later joined the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Armstrong ran for governor in 1982 but lost the Democratic nomination to eventual winner Mark White.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Armstrong assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Armstrong returned to Austin in 1998 and remained active in the environmental community, advocating for more funding for Texas Parks and Wildlife and serving as a board member for the nonprofit environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement that Armstrong leaves behind a “a legacy of leadership, courage, and compassion.”
Jerry Patterson, who served as land commissioner from 2003 to 2015, said Armstrong was always quick to return his calls and share his knowledge of the office.
“He was just a good guy. Just an extremely pleasant, smiling guy, even if he disagreed with your point of view,” Patterson said.
When Armstrong took over the General Land Office in 1971, his loose demeanor was in stark contrast to his predecessor, according to a profile from the agency’s archives. Armstrong declared that “miniskirts and sideburns are welcomed back” to the agency.
"While Bob had an easy-going personality and enjoyed a good laugh, he also demonstrated an impressive work ethic and passion for our state's natural beauty," said George P. Bush, the current land commissioner, in a statement.
“He was a lover of Texas,” Patterson said.
The state Senate Monday adjourned in Armstrong's honor. "He had a wonderful career as a public servant, and he was just a great guy," said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.