Decorated WWII Veteran Was Chief of Army Reserve

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

J. Milnor Roberts Jr., 90, an advertising executive promoted to the rank of major general in the Army Reserve who served as chief of Army Reserve from 1971 to 1975, died Jan. 2 at Virginia Hospital Center. He had a kidney infection and pneumonia.

Maj. Gen. Roberts was an Army combat veteran of World War II who participated in the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. He served in five campaigns as an aide to Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow.

After the war, he became president of the Sykes advertising company in Pittsburgh while holding command positions in the Army Reserve.

He settled in the Washington area after being named deputy chief of the Army Reserve in 1970. From 1975 to 1984, he was executive director of the Washington-based Reserve Officers Association.

Afterward, he was president and director of High Frontier, an advocacy group that promotes legislation for missile defense, and held leadership positions in other organizations supporting veterans and national defense.

He and his second wife, Priscilla, hosted radio programs for Radio America and other outlets. In 2004 he led two tours to Omaha Beach in Normandy in which he recalled his wartime experiences.

James Milnor Roberts Jr. was a Pittsburgh native and a 1940 graduate of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He was a direct descendant of George Gibson, one of George Washington's commanders at Valley Forge.

His decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, two awards of the Bronze Star Medal, the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the Air Force Exceptional Civilian Service Medal and the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Medal.

In 1975, Maj. Gen. Roberts was inducted into the Reserve Officers Association's Minuteman Hall of Fame -- the organization's highest honor.

His first wife of 48 years, Virginia Sykes Roberts, died in 1995.

Survivors include his wife of 13 years, Priscilla Bruce Roberts of Arlington County; four children from his first marriage, James M. Roberts III of Burke, Mary Lee Newman of Colorado Springs, Colo., Deborah L. Gillespie of Woodlands, Texas, and Todd Roberts of Benton, Pa.; and eight grandchildren.

-- Adam Bernstein

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