F.D. “Red” Robertson
Class of 1956, BS
Franklin Delano “Red” Robertson is known “as one of the most successful, effective, and innovative coal operators in the country,” according to Mike Karmis, Virginia Tech professor of mining and minerals engineering. “A mining engineer, an attorney, and a business entrepreneur, Red has started a number of businesses, been involved in mergers and acquisitions that have included major international companies, and has served on several boards.”
Since 1985, Mr. Robertson has served as an owner, officer, and director of The Eagle Companies. This group of companies has been involved in mining operations in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, and Alabama. Since 1967, he has also served as partner “of council” with the law practice of Robertson, Cecil & Pruitt in Grundy, Virginia.
Mr. Robertson started his career in the mining industry in 1956 with the Ames Mining Companies, one of the last independent coal operators in southwest Virginia. In 1960, he became a partner in the Thompson and Litton Engineering Company and remained with that company until 1967. From 1972 until 1985, he was an owner, a board member, and a corporate officer of the Knox Creek Coal Corporation, which was eventually sold to Republic Steel. One of his partners was another Virginia Tech alumnus from the mining and minerals engineering department, Jack Lester (Class of ’57).
Mr. Robertson continued expanding his coal interests in Virginia, West Virginia, and Illinois in partnership with other well-known coal operators, including Don and J.D. Nicewonder, Omer and Jim Bunn, Bill Kilgore (Class of '57), and Buck Harless. He and his partners acquired in 1994 the Agip Coal properties, which they successfully operated until 1997 when they sold the operations to Ruhrkohle, a major German mining company. Mr. Robertson has many other business interests, including the mining of a significant limestone deposit in Alabama.
Most recently, Mr. Robertson was inducted into the Buchanan County Hall of Fame. The award was presented to him by retired Circuit Court Judge Nicholas E. Persin who described Red Robertson as a man who liked to accomplish things quietly without a lot of fanfare. Judge Persin added that Mr. Robertson had helped a significant number of young people in the southwest Virginia area, and he never sought a personal reward or recognition for his endeavors.
Mr. Robertson is a 1956 graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in mining engineering. While he worked at Thompson and Litton, he pursued his law degree from the University of Virginia, earning his LLB in 1967. While continuing “of council” to the law firm in Grundy and expanding his business interests in the coal industry, he maintains his Professional Engineering Registration in the three states that include most of his business activities, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. He faithfully attends continuing education classes and short courses to maintain his professional engineering license.
Bill Kilgore, chairman and CEO of Anker Energy in Morgantown, West Virginia, has been a classmate of Mr. Robertson’s from grade school in Grundy, Virginia, through his undergraduate days at Virginia Tech. He has also been a business partner. Asked what is unique about Red Robertson, Mr. Kilgore replies, “If you want to accomplish something in the mining business, first seek advice from Red. He has a unique insight and perspective that is well respected by everyone in the industry.”
Mr. Robertson came to Grundy in the late 1940s, hitchhiking daily from his parents’ home in Feds Creek, Kentucky, to Grundy to attend its high school. Today, Mr. Robertson and his wife Bobbie continue to reside in Grundy and they have five children: Shane, Tass, B.D., Spring Lee, and Akshat.
Class of: 1956
Year Inducted into Academy: 2001