Bitzer, Robert (1923-1996) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Bitzer, Robert (1923-1996)

Historical Note:

Robert L. Bitzer was born on March 30, 1923 in East St. Louis, IL and passed away on July 18, 1996 in Shelbyville, IL. As a child, Bitzer became interested in Native American lore and crafts through his time as a boy scout. In the late 1930s, Bitzer became an Eagle Scout, earning a silver palm in the organization. Bitzer attended the First Annual Boy Scout National Jamboree in 1937, where he and Indian lore specialist Carl Hubbard danced together in Native American regalia for the national assembly of scouts at the Commanche Trail Council Indian Camp. In 1938, he joined the Piasa Society of St. Louis, Mo., a group that was interested in Native American dancing traditions. Following this, Bitzer served as Chief Kahok, the mascot of Collinsville High School in Collinsville, IL from 1938 to 1941. After graduating, Bitzer was accepted at the University of Illinois, where he majored in business administration. He was, at the time, selected to serve as first alternate to Glen Holthaus for the role of Chief Illiniwek. After a year of studies, Bitzer was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving as a B-24 and B-29 pilot during World War II. At the end of the war, he returned to his studies at the University of Illinois. Bitzer became a member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity and in his first year back on campus earned the role of Chief Illiniwek. He would hold the position from 1945 to 1947, leading the Illini in their win over UCLA at the Rosebowl in 1947.

Following his time at the University of Illinois, Bitzer worked as the president of Bitzer-Tagart Motor Co., an auto dealership in Shelbyville and Sullivan, IL, for over forty years. He also served as a real estate and insurance broker in Central Illinois until he passed in 1996.


"Bitzer, Robert L. Obituary" The Herald and Review (Decatur, IL) July 19, 1996, p. 8.

"Illiniwek Bids Luck to Gridiron Stars in Today's Battle with Pittsburgh," The Daily Illini (Urbana, IL), September 21, 1946, p. 7.

"Always an Eagle Scout," Boys Life Magazine (Nov. 1957): 43.

Note Author: Nolan Vallier

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