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