In Honor & Memory of Robert J. Llewellyn
September 9, 1926-March 24, 2010
Written by Belinda Younger-Gurley
With help from Warren Farrell, Richard Gurley, JC & Lela Byous, Benny & Ann Kilgore, and many other friends along
There is so much that can be said about this man…
We cannot even begin to summarize his life with simple words on paper, but we do want to share a few memories of
how he touched our own lives and made a huge impact on our organization and the public safety industry. The dates
and details below are noted to the best of our memories…
Robert J. Llewellyn was known to most as Bob, or perhaps Big Bob. He was such a giving man – intellectually,
physically, monetarily, and emotionally. He shared his wisdom and resources freely to help guide and revive the
International Municipal Signal Association, and to help those of us he touched in the public safety industry. His
family, wife Bertha Mae and their daughter Kay Lynn, were heavily involved in IMSA as well and became an extension
of our own families.
Warren Farrell stated that Bob began his involvement in the public safety sector and his IMSA membership in 1947 in
the fire alarms environment with the City of Houston, Texas. It was in 1949 during a fire alarm school in Dallas,
sponsored by IMSA, where Bob and Warren first met. Bob was with Houston and Warren was working for the City of
Fort Worth, Texas at the time. Two immensely intelligent minds with such passion for their environments… What a
lasting friendship they had.
Bob was such a compassionate man. He put everything he had into everything he did. He loved telling stories, was
an excellent negotiator, and a great keeper of records…a historian as it were. I wish we had a video reel of Bob’s life
experiences, stories and memories – he could tell you almost anything about where IMSA conferences were held,
who attended, major events and decisions for the organization, and so much more.
Bob was heavily involved in IMSA and became the international Executive Director around 1963 and held that office
on and off throughout the years. Twice in the years between 1968 and 1974, Bob was the critical investor to help
revive IMSA. One time he made a trip to Washington DC, and years later to California with the help of Robert
Boxdorfer, to retrieve the IMSA records and rebuild the organization. Bob personally used his own money to help
IMSA. IMSA is a great organization that Bob, and many other people, fully believe in.
In Houston, Bob also became involved in traffic signals and, years later, he worked as a salesman in California for
Eventually, Bob opened his own company in Fort Worth, Texas – called Traffic Signal Equipment (TSE), which was a
distributer for DCS controllers out of Colorado. Darryl Cherry was Bob’s salesman since TSE. Around 1978, Bob’s
company began distributing for Eagle. At that time, Bob gave Darryl the south part of Texas to distribute Eagle
products and helped set Darryl’s company up known as Texas Highway Products. Bob kept the other ½ of Texas and
renamed his company Hi Tech Signals.
Hi Tech Signals absorbed a large amount of the overhead as the IMSA International Office headquarters, with Kay
Lynn as the office secretary, during that time when Bob was Executive Director of IMSA. Bob also created The
Journal and held the copyright as well. He later gave this to IMSA to help the organization have another source of
revenue, which was and still is an excellent resource of information for the membership to have.
Around 1974, Bob, Warren and a few others from IMSA agreed to help ITE compile a 300 course, which became part
of our certification.
JC Byous became involved in public safety in 1972 with the City of Arlington. JC met Bob through TSE and IMSA. JC
had the privilege of attending the first IMSA school in 1978 in Dallas, Texas where many manufacturers were brought
in for the classes. He remembers Bob having very colorful language and being so generous and easy to get along
with. JC said you could really tell that Bob truly cared about people…
Richard Gurley who worked with the City of Carrollton since the summer of 1970, met Bob through signal equipment
needs and IMSA. Richard and Benny both believe that Bob was perhaps one of the most influential men for
forwarding the success of the IMSA certification program. The 1st certification school was held in San Antonio, Texas
for Traffic Signals Level I in the summer of 1980. Richard Gurley was proud to be in that class along with Buddy
Brazil, Benny Kilgore, J. C. Byous, Ursula Brooks, Ken Creamer and several other members of the Southwestern
Section. They were of the very first to receive IMSA certification…Richard’s certification number for that class is #11
and Benny’s is #3.
IMSA bought the courses from ITE for IMSA schools around 1982 where the old 200 course became Traffic Signals
Level I, the 300 became level II, and a couple years later the 1100 course became the basis for the IMSA Work Zone
Traffic Control certification course.
Undeniably, Bob was instrumental in getting the IMSA organization back on solid ground. Bob also served on the
IMSA Educational Foundation for numerous years helping to shape the certification courses as we know them. He
was later able to hand off the controls to the new Executive Director, Harold Glerum, who kept the organization
moving forth on solid ground. Bob then became Executive Director Emeritus as noted in the IMSA Journal. Many
years later, Harold joined Bob as an Executive Director Emeritus – when Marilyn Lawrence became our new Executive
Director of IMSA.
One memory that Richard recalls occurred in St. Louis at one of the International conferences for IMSA when Bob
had gathered a large group of people from the conference to go out for a steak dinner at Ruth’s Chris. Bob just
happened to be wearing a suit with a red carnation in his lapel to dinner. As the group entered the restaurant, the
owner approached quickly and personally took Bob and his friends to a private room, providing two personal waiters
for an evening of excellent food and service. When it came time to settle the tab, the restaurant owner was insistent
upon covering the bill – but so was Bob. Can you guess who won? Apparently, the owner thought Bob belonged to
the mafia (hence the red carnation). Everyone got a big kick out of that dinner experience.
Benny Kilgore started his public safety employment in 1960 with the City of Big Spring, Texas. He later moved to the
City of Garland in 1968 and joined IMSA in 1970 in Fort Worth, Texas. It was after Benny moved to Garland that he
first met Bob in 1969, while Bob was with Econolite. Benny ordered 5 signals from Econolite and Bob worked with
Benny to install the equipment. It was crazy what you had to do with the old controllers just to get railroad preempt
operating. Benny said that Bob was a terrific man who simply loved people. That Bob would take the whole world
on, lift it up and shake it until the good came out and the bad disappeared.
Bob Llewellyn, Buddy Brazil, Warren Farrell, Benny Kilgore, Richard Gurley, JC Byous, Ken Creamer, Clifford Gray,
Keith Furgeson, and some others had ongoing Metroplex group meetings. Benny states that it was at one of these
meetings where they decided there should be something more they could do to turn the Southwestern Section IMSA
meetings from supervisory parties to student training opportunities.
I began my career in public safety with the City of Arlington in 1986. This is the same year I met Bob though Hi Tech
Signals and joining IMSA. Bob was such an intelligent, loud spoken man, strong in his beliefs and convictions, but he
also had the softest heart and would bend over backwards to help people out. I was very fortunate that both of my
bosses, JC Byous and Ken Creamer, were heavily involved with and supportive of IMSA.
There are so many stories that Bob and Bertha Mae used to tell us. I remember a story that Bob and Bertha Mae told
us about one of the older conference hospitality events, where they had purchased blenders and all the ingredients
to serve up frozen margaritas to any and all (of age, of course). They also served up jalapeno cheese on crackers to
go with those margaritas. I am thinking that kept people pretty thirsty. Then the blenders were given away as door
prizes once all was said and done. They wondered how many were still working properly - since some were smoking
to produce those margaritas!
There is this book called Robert’s Rules of Order. Many of you have heard of it. It lays out the proper ways to
conduct meetings and such. I remember for the longest of time, thinking that our Mr. Robert Llewellyn actually
wrote the book. So many people referenced this book at meetings side-by-side with Big Bob running our meetings –
it made sense to me.
Bob had such a commanding presence wherever he went. He also believed in making certain everyone around him
was well fed. I remember that no matter where you might head on a trip – out of town or out of state – Bob knew
the best places to eat, to go for local flavor or be entertained, and to get a good steak, and it seemed he also knew
someone from every corner of the earth. He would say something along the lines of “while you are there, you should
stop by and see (so and so)…he is a great guy and would be happy to show you around…” It paid well to listen if Bob
was giving you advice. He never steered you wrong when it came down to it.
JC and his wife Lela were remembering about one time at an IMSA conference in Corpus Christi. During one event of
the guest program, all the guests decided they wanted to go shopping instead of heading to the planned event. Here
they were, on a bus, ready to go… Lela and Mrs. Gray (Clifford Gray’s wife) represented the desires of the ladies and
group on board and told the bus driver they wanted to go shopping instead, but the bus driver had his other
instructions and wouldn’t budge. Bertha Mae got up and set the driver straight on just who was in charge… scared
the bus driver to death about mob activities that might break out at any minute if he didn’t comply. Then Bertha
Mae, Lela, Mrs. Gray, and Ann Kilgore (Benny’s wife) helped to commandeer the bus, redirecting for a shopping
excursion that was one of the best the ladies can remember.
Benny remembers going to Bal Harbor, Florida with Bob, Bennett McMurray and Dud Lovel to an IMSA conference
with golf clubs in tow. Bob was able to negotiate with the hotel, on IMSA’s behalf, to get about 20 cents on the
dollar for the for the IMSA conference expenses with the hotel. It was also during the Florida conference where
another mafia/mob confusion occurred. Portland, Oregon folks were at the Florida conference handing out pink
roses and dust from Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption to help promote their conference the following year. Bob,
Benny, Dud and Bennett went out to eat dinner wearing their pink roses on their lapels. The restaurant kept sending
over and offering all sorts of free things – wine, food,…you name it. The guys kept sending stuff back and asked what
was going on. More flowers causing false mob association assumptions on a restaurant’s part…I am thinking if you
are a big guy and not afraid to wear flowers in your lapel of your suit jacket, you might find some places where you
could eat for free – just be careful who you run into.
Richard, Hunter and I were able to attend Bob’s funeral with many others in Houston, Texas. It was an amazing
Catholic service, in a beautiful cathedral church, where the acoustics made services and speeches sound like songs,
and with incense being swung back and forth – all to honor such a great man.
We sure do miss Bob and are so thankful we had the chance to share part of his life.
Even in death, we know what this organization meant to Bob and his family – as on Bob’s lapel, was the IMSA pin…