- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

Robert H. Fowler, 88, a pianist who worked at the National Archives for 20 years, died of pneumonia Jan. 26 at the Residences at Thomas Circle in Northwest two weeks after sustaining a fall at his Foggy Bottom apartment.

Mr. Fowler, a D.C. resident for more than 40 years, was born in Claremore, Okla., Oct. 29, 1918.

He moved to the District in the early 1960s. He brought with him a fascination for fellow Oklahoman Will Rogers, Claremore playwright-poet Lynn Riggs and 19th-century actor-playwright John Howard Payne, as well as a devotion to his Cherokee heritage.

Despite a severe hearing impairment, Mr. Fowler became an accomplished pianist who performed in small group tours in the Western U.S. in his younger years. In his early days in Washington, he accompanied several Broadway road shows.

Although he never attended college, Mr. Fowler prided himself on his skill for meticulous research at the Archives, his friend Terry M. Hagans said. “He had a certain measure of contempt for people with degrees who were not careful in their research,” Mr. Hagans said.

Mr. Fowler enjoyed walking and never owned a car. He lived at Foggy Bottom so he could discover Washington on his walks to and from work. His friends came to know him as an unofficial tour guide who took great pleasure sharing his knowledge of the District with visitors, Mr. Hagans said.

One of Mr. Fowler’s favorite projects was a tribute to his home state idol, Will Rogers, at the National Archives Exhibit Hall in the late 1960s, which ran for three years.

Patrons of the National Archives and colleagues recognized Mr. Fowler’s passion for Cherokee history.

Mr. Fowler was acknowledged for his contributions to John Finger’s first book, “Eastern Band of Cherokees 1819-1900,” and Mr. Fowler’s name is inscribed on the Honor Wall of the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall.

By 1990, Mr. Fowler had retired from the Archives and volunteered at Oak Hill Cemetery on a project to restore the ledger stone at the grave of Payne.

Mr. Fowler organized a ceremony commemorating Payne’s bicentennial birthday, but despite his efforts and those of others, the Payne restoration project remains unfinished.

Mr. Fowler was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery within view of the statue adorning Payne’s grave site.

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