February 14, 2022

 

To become a drum major for the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, one must show remarkable skill, confident leadership and steadfast determination. Kevin Phillip Roberts ’89 possessed all these qualities and more as the first Black drum major in the Aggie Band.

From the moment he joined the B Company Infantry Band in fall 1985 as a freshman, eyes were upon the smart, confident cadet. Although drum major tryouts don’t occur until the spring of a cadet’s junior year, the selection committee of band directors, top commanders and former drum majors considers the entirety of a cadet’s time at Texas A&M University. “Drum majors are put through the mill,” stated Col. Jay Brewer ’81, former director of the Aggie Band. “They lead complex drills and countermarches, and they have to explain it all. If a mistake happens, the drum majors have to adapt and keep composure.”

Leading, adapting and keeping composure all came naturally to Roberts, who was quick to explore his passions in the Corps of Cadets and elsewhere on campus. Among the first to receive the prestigious, four-year President’s Achievement Scholarship, Roberts excelled academically as an economics major. Known as “the smartest one of the bunch” from Col. Brewer’s perspective, he was equally remarkable in his campus involvement in the Dukes Jazz Ensemble, the Black Airline Pilots and Alpha Phi Alpha, the first fraternity established for Black men.
 

“Kevin had a quiet, humble demeanor, but he was confident in himself. He was kind and made everyone around him feel comfortable.”
- Roland Martin '91

A Quiet Tone

Those who met Roberts knew him to be a soft spoken but courageous leader. “Kevin had a quiet, humble demeanor, but he was confident in himself. He was kind and made everyone around him feel comfortable,” said Roland Martin ’91, one of Roberts’ Alpha Phi Alpha brothers. After being selected drum major, his quiet, resolute leadership style was put into action more than ever before.

While being a drum major is difficult, being the first Black drum major for the Aggie Band came with its own challenges. Despite some time passing since the band’s first Black member, there were some negative opinions when Roberts was chosen as drum major. “It was a pivotal time in the history of the Aggie Band. The ranks had just been integrated with females, and there was some unsolicited negative feedback from outsiders about Kevin being chosen,” Col. Brewer said. “He pushed through and made sure that everyone felt accepted. He was so important to making that moment in history successful.”

Despite excelling at keeping marches in time and finding his rhythm on campus with ease, Roberts did struggle to find the beat in one part of his life: the dance floor. As the shortest of five brothers in his Alpha Phi Alpha pledge class, Roberts was expected to lead his “line brothers” when dancing at socials on campus. “Kevin did not have a lot of rhythm,” Martin recalled with a laugh. “We had to put in a lot of extra work to get him up to speed, but we got there eventually!”

Fortunately, his offbeat dance performances did not translate to his ability to lead the Aggie Band in the “Spirit of Aggieland,” a daunting task Roberts met with a smile. “He always had a grin on his face no matter what happened. Everyone loved him because he was calm and consistent,” Col. Brewer shared.

 

Marching On

Roberts’ consistency was more than a talent he possessed on the field, as he was equally as persistent in his life aspirations. Possibly the biggest of those aspirations was becoming a pilot.

Upon graduating from Texas A&M, Roberts began pursuing his commercial pilot’s license. He had initially dreamed of flying in the United State Air Force, but health concerns forced him to find another avenue. His dream of flying came true on April 5, 1999, when Sky West informed him that he would be hired as a commercial pilot.

On April 27, 1999, Roberts was flying cargo to Oklahoma City for Texas Air Chartercraft, a company he was working for while he lived in Fort Worth to complete his pilot’s training, when his chartered twin-engine airplane crashed after a wing tore from the fuselage in a field near Goldsby, Oklahoma. Roberts, 31 at the time, passed away in the crash.
 

"If I could speak to Kevin today, I would tell him that he has forever changed the meaning of what it means to be an Aggie Bandsman."
- Daisi Delgadillo '24

Roberts’ sudden death was grieved by all, but especially by those who had experienced his unique ability to help others find their passions. “He was comfortable with who he was and what he wanted to accomplish,” Col. Brewer shared. “Kevin taught others to persevere. He lived his life to be an example for others.”

Roberts left behind a legacy of kindness, persistence and humble leadership that serves as an example for all who come to Texas A&M with a desire to impact others and make a difference. Through two Sul Ross Scholarships, the first endowed in 2000 by Roberts’ parents, Leon and Patricia Robert, and a second created in 2008, his inspirational life of service continues through the opportunities created for members of the Aggie Band who receive his named scholarships.

One of those scholarship recipients, Daisi Delgadillo ’24, credits the scholarship for allowing her the chance to call Aggieland home. Despite never knowing Roberts, Delgadillo has been inspired by him almost as much as those who knew him. “If I could speak to Kevin today, I would tell him that he has forever changed the meaning of what it means to be an Aggie Bandsman,” shared Delgadillo, who plays the snare drum. “His courage and determination have paved the way for many of us who struggle through difficulties that seem impossible to overcome. He took the opportunities given to him and made more. I, along with many other bandsmen, will forever be grateful for that.”

Interested in honoring the legacy of your loved one? Learn about four ways you can create a customized memorial gift at Texas A&M for someone who made a difference in your life. Contact Steve Blomstedt ’83, assistant vice president for discovery programs, at the bottom of this page with any questions or to get started on your gift today.

If you’d like to learn more about supporting Aggies in the Corps of Cadets or members of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band with a scholarship, contact Matt Jennings ’95, senior director of development.

You can also explore our complimentary Giving Guide to discover the many unique ways you can give back to support your passions at Texas A&M.

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