Robert J. Fleming


Robert J. Fleming was born in Fort Robinson, Nebraska, on January 13, 1907, the son of Robert John and Augusta Fleming. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1928; earned an M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1931 and graduated from the U.S. Army Engineering School in 1935. In 1936, he married Eleanor Marion Canby.

Early in World War II, he had served in the Central Pacific area. Fleming was supervisor of the construction program for the U.S. Army of Occupation after the war ended. From 1947 to 1950 he served in the Office of the Chief of Engineer in Washington, first as Chief, Engineer Organization and Training Division, and then as Assistant Chief of Engineers for Military Operations.

From 1950 to 1951, Fleming was a student at the National War College in Washington and from 1951 to 1954 was Engineer, Army Field Forces, Fort Monroe, Virginia. During 1954 he was District Engineer at Philadelphia, then served until April 1957 as Division Engineer at New England Division, before returning to Europe for a 3-year stay in France.

Fleming was appointed Governor of the Panama Canal Zone by President Kennedy on January 4, 1962, served in that position until January 31, 1967 when he retired, and then served as Executive Vice President of Anderson Nichols Company in Boston Massachusetts.

Governor Fleming was decorated with Legion of Merit, Bronze star medal, Army Commendation medal, Order White Lion (Czechoslovakia), officer Legion of Honor (France), and Grand Cross Nuñez de Balboa (Panama).

As Governor of Panama Canal Zone, Fleming had to confront one of the most sensitive aspect of the relations between United State and Panama: the riots of January 9, 1964, when Panamanian students tried to raise the Panama flag at Balboa High School, producing more than 24 deaths. Under his tenure the Thatcher Ferry Bridge was inaugurated on October 12, 1962; the first canal newspaper: the Panama Canal Spillway was published on June 20, 1962 and studies of the Isthmian Canal were initiated in 1964 with the purpose of increasing canal capacity. Fleming died on July 14, 1984.