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Dr. Robert H. Kirk

05-05-1931 to 09-25-2023

Dr. Robert H. Kirk, 92, passed away peacefully on September 25, 2023 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Robert was born May 5, 1931, in Hamtramck, Michigan, to Henry Eugene and Georgia Ella Kirk. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Fisk University and four graduate degrees from Indiana University, the last being the Doctor of Health and Safety in 1960. While attending Indiana University, he met and married Aravella Davis in 1959.


Robert Kirk first joined the faculty at University of Tennessee in 1967 as an associate professor, but later became the first African-American full professor in the university’s history to receive tenure and head a department at the school. In addition to full­-time academic experiences, Robert served as a consultant to the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.


He served as Executive Secretary of the Knoxville Black Officials Coalition; member of the Webb School Board of Trustees; member of the Board of Directors of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and Covenant Health; member of the Board of Directors of AAA of East Tennessee; member of the National Board of Directors of AAA and the first African-American Commissioner of Knoxville Utilities Board with five of those years as board chair.


Many knew him in the community as the owner of Kirk’s Market – a place where he perfected his love of barbecue. Robert loved music, travel and technology. New York was his favorite place to travel, he always had the latest Apple products and if you knew him, you knew about his massive record collection.


Robert was a lifelong member of Lennon Seney United Methodist Church. He was a life member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and a charter member of Beta Theta Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.


Robert was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Aravella. He is survived by his wife, Lois Kirk, of Dayton, OH; his son, Derek (Tamara & Aaliyah) of Port St. Lucie, FL; his daughter, Tracy (Donald Hardin Jr.) of Nashville, TN; two grandchildren, Donald Hardin III, Nashville, TN and Mackenzie Kirk, Seal Beach, CA; stepsons, Charles Fortson II, Dayton, OH, David Fortson, Dayton, OH, Stephen (Christine) Fortson, Dayton, OH, and Gerald Fortson, Cincinnati, OH.


The family will greet friends from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday, October 2, 2023 at Lennon Seney United Methodist Church. Omega Psi Phi and Beta Theta Boule Memorial Services will begin at 6:00 p.m. Service begins at 6:30 p.m. Interment will follow at East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery, 2200 E. Gov. John Sevier Hwy 168 on Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023, at 10:00 am. “The family asks that donations, in lieu of flowers, be made to the Van Vechten Gallery and sent to: Fisk University, Institutional Advancement, 1000 17th Ave. No., Nashville, TN 37208.


Online donations may be made to the University at: https://connect.fisk.edu/donate.


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