Frankfort, Ky. – Dr. Robert C. Webb, former chairman and member of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission for more than three decades, died Tuesday, February 5, at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland after a long illness. He was 85.
Dr. Webb, who retired from the commission in August, 2006, represented Kentucky’s Eighth Fish and Wildlife District on the commission for 32 years, longer than any other commission member.
He was nominated by the District’s sportsmen and sportswomen and appointed to his first 4-year term by Gov. Edward T. Breathitt in August 1966 to represent Bath, Bourbon, Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Fleming, Greenup, Lewis, Mason, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Nicholas, Rowan and Wolfe counties.
Reappointed by governors Louie Nunn in 1970, Wendell Ford in 1974, Julian Carroll in 1978, John Y. Brown in 1982, Martha Layne Collins in 1986 and Paul Patton in 1998 and 2002, he served during the administrations of nine Kentucky governors.
Dr. Webb also was a practicing optometrist in Grayson for more than 50 years before his retirement.
“Doc was a big ‘Junior Club’ man,” said nephew Jay Webb, Assistant Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Information and Education Division. “The Junior Conservation Clubs were organized groups of boys in junior high and high school who would shoot trap and moskeet on school property. They were the precursors to our conservation education in the schools programs.
“Doc was strong advocate for teaching conservation in our schools,” he added. “The 85,000 Kentucky middle school students who Department conservation educators reach in the classrooms each year are a tremendous piece of his legacy.”
Camp Robert C. Webb, dedicated in 1969, is located on Grayson Lake in Carter County and is one of three department-operated conservation camps that host about 6,000 5th and 6th grade campers each summer.
“It was no secret that he was a fierce protector of all things Eighth District,” added Jay Webb, a note of seriousness mixed with a chuckle. “He looked after ’his boys’ as he often referred to department employees in the district, and when they trapped grouse there to feed restorations in other parts of the state, that fired him up too.”
He also played a pivotal role in numerous wildlife restorations. During his tenure, Kentucky’s white-tailed deer herd grew from 20,000 animals to nearly a million and became one of the nation’s highest in quality as well.
The state’s wild turkey flock grew from 1,000 birds isolated in just a few wild areas to more than a quarter-of-a-million spread across the entire Commonwealth.
Free ranging wild elk returned after a 150-year absence and today the herd is nearing 7,300.
During his tenure, he also provided guidance and oversight for other restorations as well, including peregrine falcons, osprey, river otters and more.
“Dr. Webb dedicated his life to wildlife conservation and education and clearly played a pivotal role in bettering the lives of all Kentuckians,” said Dr. Jon Gassett, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “His work will continue to positively impact us for generations to come.”
In March 1996, just a few months before Webb’s retirement from the Commission, the Kentucky House of Representatives recognized his dedication to Kentucky’s natural resources with a resolution upon their adjournment. “Dr. Robert C. Webb has served the people of the Commonwealth for more than three decades as a member of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission, striving to protect Kentucky's wondrous natural beauty, and the wildlife that is a vital part of the cycle of nature,” House members said in their resolution.
Dr. Webb is survived by his wife, Linda; a daughter, State Representative Robin Webb: a son, Robert Webb and four grandchildren.
Visitation will be Friday, February 8, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Grayson. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Saturday, also at First Baptist Church.
Flowers may be sent to the Malone Funeral Home, 325 Malone Lane, Grayson, or in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Dr. Robert C. Webb Memorial Scholarship Fund. Checks should be made payable to the KDFWR and directed to the attention of Jay Webb @ KDFWR, 1 Sportsman’s Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601.
The scholarship fund will be used to assist disadvantaged youth in attending Conservation Camp.