Robert Houstoun Deméré Fund

In March 1776, a young firebrand named Raymond Paul Deméré, under the command of Colonel Lachlan McIntosh, set out from Yamacraw Bluff with a fellow townsman in a small boat. They rowed under a flag of truce to demand the release of a Patriot officer being held on Hutchinson Island. Deméré and his companion would also become British prisoners briefly and the ensuing Battle of Rice Boats that followed, would, at last, bring the American Revolution to Savannah and begin a chapter in the life of young Raymond Deméré that would include service under General George Washington in the Continental Army before his return to Savannah.

Two centuries after the battle of Rice Boats, his great-great-grandson Robert Houstoun “Bobby” Deméré, would be part of the fifth generation carrying on the Deméré name in Savannah as a devoted father and husband, business executive, community leader, and philanthropist.

Born February 15, 1924, Bobby Deméré was the first of three sons of Raymond Deméré III, and Josephine Elizabeth Mobley. First Lieutenant Raymond Deméré had served in World War I and on his return, seeing the increasing need for automobile fuel, founded the American Oil Company in 1921, now Colonial Oil.

Bobby Deméré was educated at the Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut where he was Captain of the Nathanial Bishop Rowing Club, and graduated in 1942, before attending Yale where he was in the Scroll & Key Honor Society and a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. Following his service in the Pacific Theater during World War II on a sub-chaser, Bobby Deméré came home and on September 21, 1946. He married Mary Elizabeth Bullock in a ceremony at Christ Church in her hometown of Bronxville, New York. The two had met during his time at Yale, and following a honeymoon in Bermuda they returned to Savannah and to the family business at Colonial Oil.

Robert Houstoun Deméré was a consummate businessman, community leader, quiet philanthropist, and devoted family man. Following the death of his father, he took the reins of Colonial Oil where he served as President and Chairman of the Board until his retirement. He was a member of the St. Andrews Society, the Society of the Cincinnati, and the Society of Colonial Wars among other service and philanthropic organizations in the city. In 1955, he was one of fourteen founders who joined forces to establish Savannah Country Day School.

But Bobby Deméré was never happier than when he was on the water and enjoyed sailing Savannah’s many waterways. He once made a trip from Savannah, through the Panama Canal to California to deliver his father’s boat, The Ocean Queen, to his brother. Throughout his life, he shared his nautical passion with his family and friends, so much so that in 2005, the Savannah Foundation established the Robert Deméré Sailing Scholarship that annually sends high school students to the Charleston Sailing Academy in South Carolina.

Robert Houstoun Deméré died December 26, 2003, age 79, and was buried in the Deméré family private cemetery. In 2005, Mary Bullock Deméré and the Deméré family established the Robert Houstoun Deméré Fund at the Georgia Historical Society in his memory.