Robert Henkel Spilman, Sr. ’50

Robert Henkel Spilman, Sr. ’50, of Richmond, Va., formerly of Bassett, Va., died peacefully on Nov. 15. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jane Bassett Spilman, 967 Dover Farm Rd., Manakin Sabot, VA 23103-3034; his children, Robert H. Spilman, Jr. (Nancy), Virginia Spilman Perrin (Coleman), and Vance H. Spilman (Beth); and nine grandchildren, Forrest Perrin, Coles Perrin, Whit Perrin, Anne Spilman, Ginny Spilman, Robert Spilman, Janie Spilman, Vance Spilman, and Campbell Spilman; as well as a host of nieces and nephews and many beloved friends. Spilman was born in Knoxville, Tenn., and served briefly in WWII in the U.S. Army Infantry Division. He later attended Davidson and graduated from the Engineering School of North Carolina State University with a degree in textiles. He served as an officer in the 82nd Airborne during the Korean Conflict and then as an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was the retired chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Bassett Furniture Industries. He served on numerous corporate boards including Dominion Resources, Dominion Energy, Jefferson-Pilot Corporation, NationsBank Corporation, International Home Furnishings Center, The Pittston Company, Trinova Corporation, United Investment Trust, and Virginia Business Council. Spilman served on the boards of trustees of academic institutions in Virginia and North Carolina, including the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, N.C. State University, Appalachian State University, Virginia Military Institute, Old Dominion University, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, and the State Council of Higher Education. He also served as chairman of Virginia Port Authority and was instrumental in the unification of the ports of Norfolk and Hampton Roads. He was publicly recognized many times during his life, including being honored by the Anti-Defamation League, Humanitarian of the Year (City of Hope Hospital, Los Angeles), and three-time winner of the Wall Street CEO Award of Furniture Industry. He was the recipient of the American furniture industry’s highest honor, the James T. Ryan Statesman of Commerce Award. In 1989 he was named Virginia’s Outstanding Industrialist. He was appointed to the Virginia-Israel Commission by Governor Baliles and served on Virginia’s Economic Advisory Council under Governors Baliles and Robb. Spilman was a true gentleman and fierce competitor in business, on the golf course, in the trout stream, and around the gin rummy table. He dearly loved his family and his multitude of friends and never hesitated to offer words of wisdom to those around him. He was one of the few two-time Billfish Masters Tournament champions, conducted annually by the Sailfish Club of Palm Beach, Fla. He traveled the world in search of red-legged partridge, bonefish, and good cigars, and never stopped enjoying the challenge of his next adventure.