Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2023

The Passing of a Legend


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Bruce Roberts with his American Lighthouse ...

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Bruce Roberts speaking on November 7, 2015 at the ...

This past June 16th, 2023, with the passing of Bruce Stuart Roberts, at the age of 93, the lighthouse community lost one of its most prolific photographic chroniclers, who coauthored more lighthouse books than any other person in history.

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Undated file photo of Bruce and Cheryl ...

Together with his wife, Cheryl Shelton-Roberts, also an adept historical author, and his long-time friend Ray Jones, they were among the small band of people around the country, who literally started the ligshthouse preservation movement in the 1990s.

Some of the lighthouse books that he coauthored with Ray Jones were: Pacific Northwest Lighthouses, California Lighthouses, Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses, Southern Lighthouses, Eastern Great Lakes Lighthouses, New England Lighthouses, and Gulf Coast Lighthouses, to name a few.

Books that Bruce coauthored with his wife, Cheryl, included: North Carolina Lighthouses (2019); Cape Hatteras: America’s Lighthouse (1999); and Moving Hatteras – Relocating the Cape Hatteras Light Station to Safety (2014).

In 1994, Bruce and Cheryl Roberts cofounded the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, a nonprofit organization that supports all of North Carolina’s lighthouses. It was largely their leadership and dedication in the late 1990s that led to the saving, in 1999, of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, America’s tallest light tower, from collapsing into the sea, when at a cost of $12 million, the lighthouse was moved 2900 feet inland.

As a young man, after Bruce left the U.S. Air Force as a staff sergeant, he became a newspaper photographer and eventually, for many years, was the Director of Photography and Senior Photographer at Southern Living magazine. His works have appeared in Time, Life, and Sports Illustrated; and many of his photographs have been collected by the National Archives as well as in holdings at the University of Texas in Austin.

In September of 2000, Timothy Harrison, then president of the American Lighthouse Foundation, presented Bruce Roberts with their prestigious “Keeper of the Light Award” for his work, not only in leading the effort to save Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, but for cofounding one of the most foremost nonprofit lighthouse groups in the country.

Bruce and Cheryl also played a pivotal role in the 2001 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Keepers Descendants Homecoming, the largest gathering of descendants of lighthouse keepers in history that was attended by over 2,000 descendants.

Our condolences go out to Bruce’s family and wide circle of friends. He left a legacy that will remain with us for many generations to follow.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2023 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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