SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) has announced that it has received a generous inheritance of $500,000 given through the estate of Robert B. Smith II, a former United Airlines pilot and resident of Savannah from 2010 to 2021.

“On behalf of the Georgia Historical Society and our Board of Curators, I want to express my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to Bob Smith and his family for this wonderful gift,” said Dr. W. Todd Groce, President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society.

He continued, “This is a meaningful way to recognize a great man who collected friends wherever he went. By creating the Robert B. Smith II named fund as part of the GHS Endowment, Bob and his family have secured an enduring legacy that will advance the mission of this institution and benefit history students, teachers, and researchers for generations to come.”

Robert B. Smith II. A former United Airlines pilot, Smith was a resident of Savannah from 2010 – 2021. (Photo provided by the GHS)

Robert Brookings Smith II was born in 1934 in St. Louis, Missouri, to Katherine and Alan T. Smith. He was the youngest of three boys. He graduated from Yale University and was later drafted to serve in the Korean War.

After the war, Smith became a pilot for Republic Airlines flying DC-3s before settling into a long career as a 737 pilot for United Airlines. While at United, he met his wife, Kathleen, who was a stewardess and model. They had four children: Robert III, Christopher, Jonathan, and Molly (Wilson). They also had eight grandchildren.

“I think after Mr. Smith moved to this area, he gained a great appreciation for Georgia’s history and the role that the Georgia Historical Society plays as an educational and research institution in collecting the materials that will allow future generations to understand that history,” said Stan Deaton, Ph.D., Senior Historian of the Georgia Historical Society.

In 2022, GHS received notification of a generous inheritance left by Smith. This legacy gift was used to establish the Robert B. Smith II Fund within the GHS Endowment, which helps in providing for the mission and work of the historic institution in perpetuity.

The gift will help GHS fulfill its $20 million endowment goal, a key priority of GHS’s Next Century Initiative campaign.

Nearly half a century ago, the GHS created an Endowment Fund to ensure the future of GHS, one of the oldest historical societies in the nation.

Georgia Historical Society. (Photo provided by GHS)

The purpose of the GHS Endowment is twofold: to provide perpetual care for and access to the oldest archival collection of Georgia history in the nation and to ensure the delivery of rich and varied educational and public programs for teachers, students, and general audiences.

“His gift will help us make all the materials in our Research Center more accessible, and GHS is thereby able to better serve the public, create teacher training materials, hold teacher training workshops, provide access for scholar who are publishing history and through our public programs, help the public understand the past as a way of creating a better future. Mr. Smith’s thoughtful and generous gift makes all of that possible,” said Deaton.

For more information about the GHS Endowment Fund, or the Next Century Initiative campaign, contact Leanda Rix at