Deacon Robert Lee Bess, 87, entered eternal rest Monday, March 2, 2020.
Robert L. Bess was a champion of gentlemen. He conquered many with his soothing, kind expressions. When he spoke, it was sincerely from his heart. Although known for his quick wit, compassionate spirit, and infectious smile and laughter, Robert “Bob” Bess filled a gentleman’s space in the lives of his loving family, friends, and the community.
Bob was born in Wheeler County, Georgia to George and Jessie Mae Bauknight Bess. After graduating valedictorian from Jordan McArthur High School, he attended Hampton Institute in Virginia for 2 years. Then, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Savannah State College (University) and a Masters of Science Degree in Counseling and Guidance from Indiana University. He graduated from the first Class of 1969 from the program Leadership Savannah from the City of Savannah.
Bob served in the United States Army and the U.S. Reserves for a total of seven years. He retired after 30 years in education, serving as a teacher, counselor, student personnel worker at the Vocational Technical School, Director of Planning for the Savannah-Chatham Public School System and Director of Development and College Relations at Savannah State College (University). Bob is also the founder of the Savannah State University Foundation (December 1974) and one of three who created the Savannah State radio station – WHCJ.
Along with his family, Bob had many passions. At heart he was a barber. This entrepreneurial endeavor began in high school, continued in college, the army, and professionally. His occupational passion was real estate. He had over four decades of experience in sales, service, administration, and supervision. He was the owner and Broker of Oglethorpe Realty Company for 21 years. He was an Associate Broker at Century 21 Fox Properties in Savannah. The last six of those years, he partnered with Century 21 as an associate broker. His real estate career culminated with Rawls Realty where he was an associate broker since 2018. His recreational passions included golfing, fishing, reading, traveling, and watching vintage western movies.
Bob had many affiliations and acknowledgements. Treasured among them was his Life Membership to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Savannah State University Alumni Association. Also, he and Betty were a Savannah State Influential Alumni Couple (2014). He was a member of the Savannah Area Board of Realtors, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, Frazier/Jones Family Reunion (active member), President of Savannah State College Alumni Association (1979-1981), Chairman of Greenbriar Children’s Center, Inc., 40th Annual Committee (1989), Savannah Gents, Inc. (Founder), and a Dad with Jack and Jill, Inc.
The scripture of John 12:26 says, “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man – serve me, him will my Father honor” (KJV). Bob joined and served First Bryan Baptist Church in April 1962 and became a deacon on October 12, 1986. Since being at First Bryan, he served as a member of the Mass Choir, the Male Chorus, and Chairman of the Laymen (Brotherhood). It was during his time as chairman when he started the 2nd Saturday morning breakfast. He also served on the Pastor’s Aide Ministry; was associate chairman of the Finance Ministry, and associate chairman of the Deacons Ministry. Additionally, for 28 years he served as chairman of the Trustees Ministry and chaired the church’s three major renovation projects. Deacon Bess was active with the Southern Region of the New Era Baptist Convention. He served as 1st Vice President of the Laymen, and for six years as the chairman of the Laymen of the State Convention.
Bob and Betty Frazier married on Saturday, April 11, 1981. To this union was born Bridgette Janel Bess. He leaves to cherish his memories a loving and devoted wife, Betty Frazier Bess, two daughters, Georgia Mincey (Floyd) and Bridgette Bess, a son, Rodney Bess; step-mother, Sarah Troup Bess; five grandchildren, Rachel Williams, Dexter Conaway, Marlo Vinson, Dr. Margo Mincey and Shawn Bess; great grands; six sisters, Sheila Bowser (Gerald), Lynise Smith (Donald), Lydia Bess, Millicent Frazier (Talmadge), Georgene Montgomery, and Ava Roberts; two brothers; Larry Stanley (Helen) and George Bess; five sisters in love, Gertrude Brown (Sam), Mary Kelly (Ivory), Carolyn Blake (Edward), Barbara Walker, Bernice Adams (Deceased); brother in love, James Lee Frazier, Jr.; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, three Godchildren, Pamela Chisholm, Xavier Blake, and Erica Johnson, and an array of friends and colleagues.
The funeral service for Deacon Robert Bess was held Monday, March 9 at First Bryan Baptist Church.