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Willard L. Roberts
(1923-1987)

Black Hills Minerals was the sales name of Willard Lincoln "Bill" Roberts, Curator of Mineralogy at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota. He was born in Epworth, Dubuque County, Iowa on February 12, 1923--Abraham Lincoln's birthday and therefore the source of his middle name. His fascination with minerals was awakened around the age of five, when his grandfather gave him a cleavage fragment of galena. He was soon studying the Keokuk geodes in neighborhood rock gardens and looking for fossils in the local ravines.

In 1934 his family moved to Rapid City, South Dakota where hundreds of pegmatites were being worked and minerals abounded. By the start of World War II Bill had enrolled as a student at the South Dakota School of Mines, but he left to spend three years serving with the 8th Air Force in England and France, and studied geology at the Biarritz American University in France, then studied philosophy under Bertrand Russell at King's College, Cambridge, England. After returning to the U.S. he studied law and business administration and held a number of diverse positions including Executive Aide to the Mayor of Rapid City. In 1949 he married Jean McPhail, who also had a passion for minerals and became his constant companion on field trips and at mineral shows.

Bill was at the same time engaged in numerous mining activities in the Black Hills area, and had discovered extensive carnotite deposits. He also managed the Helen Beryl Mining Corporation for several years while studying independently for the State bar exam until the Legislature passed a law requiring a law degree. In the 1960's he was appointed Senior Curator of Mineralogy and Vertebrate Paleontology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, a position he held until his death on March 23, 1987. Bill taught mineralogy, prepared exhibits, acquired and curated specimens for the museum and co-authored descriptions of several new mineral species from the Black Hills. He was also senior author of Mineralogy of the Black Hills (1965) and Encyclopedia of Minerals (1974), and founder of the Black Hills Mineralogical Society. The mineral robertsite was named in his honor in 1974, and an honoray PhD was conferred upon him--posthumously--by the School of Mines.

Reference:
MOORE, P. B. (1988)Willard Lincoln Roberts, February 12, 1923--March 23, 1987. Mineralogival Record, 19, 279-280.
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