During a 46-year career in banking, Robert “Bob” Livingston earned a reputation as a skilled business and civic leader who sought to preserve Sacramento’s history while guiding its future.
“He was in so many organizations. He was president of everything,” said longtime friend Mead Kibbey.
Over the years, Livingston led numerous boards of directors, including those of the Sacramento Junior and Sacramento Metropolitan chambers of commerce, the Sacramento Zoological Society, Retailers Credit Association, Grandfathers Club No. 1 and the Sacramento Pioneer Association. In 1958, he was elected the first president of Central California Educational Television’s board of directors and oversaw the debut of public television station KVIE.
He also was a historian and a world traveler whose penchant for exotic destinations challenged his travel agent.
Livingston died of pneumonia July 30 at his Sacramento home, said his grandson, Michael Shepard. He was 100 years old.
Robert D. Livingston was born Feb. 19, 1916, in the Glenn County community of Hamilton City. The son of Duncan and Estelle Livingston, he moved with his parents and sister, Dorothy, to Sacramento in 1930. He graduated from Sacramento High School and Sacramento City College.
He began his banking career as a messenger with the American Trust Co., which later merged with Wells Fargo Bank. As a messenger, he delivered documents to the Sutter Club and, he told his grandson, he decided then and there, “One day I’m going to be a member of that club.” He made good on the vow, becoming a life member of the club, Shepard said.
Livingston joined the U.S. Army during World War II as a private and was commissioned in the Quartermaster Corps after completing Officer Candidate School. Shepard said he believes his grandfather’s experience with the Quartermaster Corps reinforced his decision to pursue a banking career.
Upon leaving the Army, Livingston returned to Wells Fargo Bank. He held various managerial positions and retired in 1981 as vice president and regional manager.
Sacramento in the 1950s and ’60s still had a small-town feel, said Livingston’s daughter, Barbara Shepard, and bankers had a more personal relationship with their customers.
“So many people have said to me, ‘He loaned us money to buy our first house or our first car,’ ” she said.
Kibbey said he originally had business and personal accounts with Bank of America. But the two men got to talking one day and Livingston said, “I can do a lot better for you than those guys are,” recalled Kibbey, adding, “And he did.”
Kibbey also remembers receiving a call from Livingston discreetly informing him that a family member was overdrawn, giving Kibbey an opportunity to rectify the situation instead of imposing charges.
The two men became better acquainted in later years as members of the Sacramento Pioneer Association. Livingston had been a stamp collector since childhood and was instrumental in obtaining remarkable postage covers from California’s very first days, Kibbey said.
Michael Shepard said his grandfather was particularly interested in letter covers, or envelopes, that had been delivered by Wells Fargo stagecoaches. Among those he acquired was the cover for a letter sent from Sacramento by Heinrich Schliemann, the German businessman and archaeologist who discovered the ruins of Troy.
Shepard said Wells Fargo purchased his grandfather’s collection, which is displayed at the Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Sacramento.
While he was devoted to the history of Sacramento and California, Livingston also spent a great deal of time studying other countries. He and he wife of 54 years, Jean Stoddard Livingston, traveled throughout Europe. After her death in 1994, Livingston took to traveling alone, or with his grandsons.
“He liked to go off the beaten trail,” said Michael Shepard, noting that his grandfather wasn’t fond of tours and didn’t go on cruises. Just as he collected stamps, he liked to “collect” countries, Shepard said.
He traveled to 160 countries, making his last trip, at age 92, to Central Asia to visit the “ ’Stans,” including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
“He was extremely bright, and interested in everything and everyone,” said Kay Wood, who booked most of his trips as owner of Kay Wood’s World of Travel. He researched the places he wanted to go. Many were destinations she had never heard of, Wood said, noting that she would arrange for him to travel with a car and a driver.
Shepard said Iran was among the countries his grandfather most enjoyed. He went there twice after the revolution in the late 1970s, and he couldn’t get a visa until he got to London. Livingston found the Iranian people he met during his visits to be very hospitable, Shepard said.
Although Livingston outlived most of his contemporaries, the centenarian counted many people younger than 40 among his circle of friends, his grandson said, noting that he loved interacting with people.
“You always had the feeling he respected you,” Kibbey said. “I never heard him belittle anybody. I never heard him say a bad thing about another human being, and I knew him more than 50 years. There are very few people like that.”
In addition to his wife, Livingston was preceded in death by a daughter, Marjorie Liesy. He is survived by daughter Barbara Jean Shepard and his sister Dorothy Livingston O’Leary, both of Sacramento, as well as four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Saturday. For those wishing to remember Livingston, the family suggests contributions to Shriners Hospitals for Children, 2425 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95867, or a charity of the donor’s choice.