Dear ISB Friends:
A death is always saddening to report. This death is particularly
so, as this one-time ISB student was gunned down and apparently
beheaded by Muslim extremists in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Robert Jacobs, lSB Class of 1959 (he attended approximately 1956-1958)
was shot dead in the garage of his residence in Riyadh on Tuesday,
June 8th. The event was videotaped and run on a sympathetic website;
portions were also shown on al-Jazeera TV, based in Quatar. The
clip shows Bob being shot 10 times, then the motion of him being
beheaded, although this has not been confirmed. Two or three men
were involved, and one or two of them are said to be among those
killed or apprehended by Saudi authorities over the last couple
I was in Bob Jacobs' class of '59 at 15B, and we got together
a few times after we were both back in the Washington, DC area in
1959-60. I spoke with him in about 1997 by phone at his home in
Murphysboro, IL and found that he was planning to leave soon for
work in Saudi Arabia. I called his home in 2000 to let him know
about the Williamsburg, VA reunion, and reached one of his sons
who informed me that he was in Saudia Arabia.
I am enclosing some material from the internet that may be of interest.
Bill Brink ISB '59
The Southern Illinoisan - MURPHYSBORO MAN KILLED IN SAUDI ARABIA
WWW. TheSouthern. com
MURPHYSBORO MAN KILLED IN SAUDI ARABIA
BY KEN SEEBER and ANDREA MARIE KAMPWERTH THE SOUTHERN
[Tue Jun 08 2004]
MURPHYSBORO -- A former Murphysboro man who worked for a U.S. defense
contractor was shot and killed Tuesday in Riyadh, the capital of
Saudi Arabia. Robert C. Jacobs, 63, was an employee of Vinnell Corp.,
a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp. Jacobs had lived in Saudi
Arabia for seven years training members of the Saudi National Guard.
"He was training people, but not in warfare," said his
mother, Oma Lee Jacobs of Murphysboro, "He was a graphic artist,
so he was training Saudis in graphics work."
An unknown assailant shot Jacobs to death in his home, said
a spokesman for Vinnell Corp., based in Fairfax, Va. "He was
found by another employee at his apartment and taken to a hospital,
but did not survive," said a company spokesman, Jay McCaffrey.
Jacob's son, Matthew Jacobs of Murphysboro, said he learned of his
father's death Tuesday morning. The shooting happened around 8:30
a.m. Central time or 3:30 p.m. in Saudi Arabia. Matthew said preliminary
reports are that someone followed his father home from work Tuesday.
"It seems weird," said Matthew, 26. "Whether he was
stalked or this was random, we don't know yet."
Islamic militants have carried out a series of attacks on Westerners,
government targets and economic interests in Saudi Arabia during
the past 13 months. The government has blamed the attacks on people
inspired by, or belonging to, the al-Qaida terror network led by
Saudi-born Osama bin Laden. Jacobs' sister, Janice Jacobs, is an
official with the U.S. State Department in Washington who is working
with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to institute changes to
U.S. visas. Janice Jacobs told Oma Lee that because Robert was possibly
killed by terrorists, the FBI will be leading the investigation
into his death. Vinnell, which has several dozen Americans in Saudi
Arabia training Saudi security forces, maintains a secure residential
compound for its employees, but Jacobs chose not to live there.
That's because Jacobs easily adapted to living in foreign countries,
Oma Lee said. Jacobs' father, the late Robert Jacobs of Murphysboro,
was a longtime employee of the U.S. State Department who moved allover
the globe when his sonwas growing up.
"I remember him going on a lion hunt when he was 13 or 14 when
we lived in Ethiopia," Oma Lee said. "He adapted to Saudi
Arabia and their cuisine. He even went to camel races on Saturday
afternoons, and he loved the markets." Before moving to Saudi
Arabia Jacobs worked for the Shawnee Correctional Center in Vienna,
teaching graphic arts photography to inmates.
"He made friends with the prisoners," Oma Lee said. "He
had a farm out on Town Creek Road and he rented the house to one
of the prisoners after he got out. He was very sympathetic to people.
Jacobs' sister-in-law, Sandy Jacobs, and her daughter, Jessica,
reminisced Tuesday over wedding pictures of Robert and his wife,
Virginia, who lives in Turkey. Sandy said Robert visited the family
in September. She asked him then if he was afraid of living in a
part of the world that was becoming increasingly hostile to Americans.
"I asked him one time (if he was afraid) and he was not,"
Sandy said. "He adapted very easily, he liked the food and
Except he missed eating pork, Oma Lee said. When Bobby, as she called
him, would come for a visit, he always had to visit 17th Street
Bar & Grill. "He was here last September," she said.
"He said 'Let's go out for dinner, Mom, and I said 'I don't
think I want to be seen with an old, white-whiskered man,'"
referring to her son's beard. "When he was born, my husband
and I naturally just thought he was the most beautiful child ever born," she said.
The family lived allover the world. Robert and Janice were home-schooled
in Ethiopia, and attended French grade school while in France. The
youngest daughter, Linda, now in California, was born in Thailand.
"He was just used to living overseas," Oma Lee said Oma
Lee's home is filled with beautiful decorations accumulated while
she was traveling with her husband. Some of her favorites, though,
are souvenirs her son brought to her. The most recent exotic
gift is an amber egg, cut with facets. The golden
petrified tree sap holds prehistoric insects visible within the
egg. Robert told her that when he saw it in a Saudi market, he knew
she would love it and he had to get it for her.
"Sometime it's going to hit me that he's not coming
home anymore," she said.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Robert Jacobs Loved Going to Camel Races in Riyadh
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News
WASHINGTON, 10June 2004 — Robert C. Jacobs, the American citizen
who was shot and killed on Tuesday at his home in Riyadh, refused
to live on his company’s heavily-fortified compound, preferring
to live among Saudis in a middle class neighborhood.
“My son refused to live in the secure compound provided by Vinnell,
because he enjoyed living among the Saudis,” his mother, Oma Lee
Jacobs, told Arab News in a telephone interview from her home in
Illinois. “He liked them, their cuisine, and enjoyed living there.
He liked going to camel races and browsing in the markets there.”
Jacobs,63 , was an employee of Vinnell Corp., a subsidiary of
Northrop Grumman Corp. He lived in Saudi Arabia for seven years,
where he trained the National Guard in graphic design. “He was training
people, but not in warfare,” Mrs. Jacobs explained to her local
An unknown assailant shot and killed Jacobs at his home, said
a spokesman for Vinnell Corp., which is based in Fairfax, Virginia.
“He was found by another employee at his apartment and taken to
a hospital, but did not survive,” said a company spokesman, Jay
The Jacobs family has lived all over the world. Mrs. Jacobs
said that although she had never been to Saudi Arabia, she has traveled
to 108 countries, including several in the Middle East.
“My husband worked with the State Department,” said Mrs. Jacobs.
“We lived all over Africa and Southeast Asia. Bob was very used
to overseas living and got along very well with local people wherever
Their children grew up overseas, she said.
Robert and his sister Janice, an official with the US State
Department in Washington, now working with Homeland Security Director
Tom Ridge on visa issues, were home-schooled in Ethiopia and attended
French schools while living in France. Mrs. Jacobs, who lost her
husband 10 years ago, said their youngest daughter, Linda, was born
Mrs. Jacobs said that during the decades her son had worked
overseas, she had occasionally visited him. Everywhere she went,
people told her: “Your son is so wonderful.”
“Bob was friendly, outgoing and really liked people,” she said,
adding he had grown a beard while living in the Kingdom.
Mrs. Jacobs said she had discussed the idea of her son returning
home to the US, and the decision “was up in the air.” Yesterday,
when she returned home from doing charity work in town, she said
she thought her son had surprised her and returned “because there
were so many cars in the driveway. I thought he was here because
the last time I spoke to him, he told me: ‘I’ll probably be seeing
you before too long,’” she said.
She is unsure when her son’s body will be returned to their
hometown of Murphysboro, Illinois. She said her daughter told her
that because terrorists possibly killed Jacobs, the FBI would take
part in the investigation of his death. “We don’t know anything
more. My daughter said the body has to go to Dover, Delaware, first
because of the terrorist connection.”