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Monday, August 28, 2006
Former Spurs owner McDermott dies following stroke

Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- Former San Antonio Spurs owner and retired Brig. Gen. Robert F. McDermott died Monday. He was 86.

McDermott, a former Air Force Academy dean who went on to become chairman of the insurance giant USAA and a leading advocate for auto safety, died at Brooke Army Medical Center after suffering a stroke two weeks ago, family spokesman Paul Ringenbach said.

McDermott moved to San Antonio in 1968 when he retired from the Air Force and joined USAA, the United Services Automobile Association, founded in the 1920s as an insurance company for military officers.

As president and chairman, McDermott oversaw its growth from a company with 2,600 employees into a multibillion-dollar corporation with more than 16,000 employees that offered a range of financial services to current and former military service members and their families.

McDermott stepped down as head of USAA in 1993, shortly after leading a group of local investors in purchasing the San Antonio Spurs pro basketball franchise from Red McCombs for $85 million.

Three years later, McDermott resigned as chairman of the investor group after backing a plan to sell the franchise that other Spurs board members opposed.

Never afraid to speak his mind, McDermott argued that safety measures would reduce insurance costs and advocated the use of air bags years before they became commonplace.

President Eisenhower appointed him to serve as dean of the then-new Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., a post he held from 1956 until 1968.

He was credited with helping modernize military education by such steps as requiring students to select a major course of study. The school's main cadet library bears his name.

A native of Boston, McDermott graduated from West Point in 1943. He became a fighter pilot and after World War II served on Eisenhower's staff.

He is survived by his wife, five children, 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, Ringenbach said.

Funeral arrangements were pending.