Artist, actor, and decorated war veteran Bob Snead passed away at 84 years old in Prosper, Texas, on July 11.
He is well known for his series of paintings on the Buffalo Soldiers — the all Black 9th and 10th Calvary Regiments of the U.S. Army. His work was featured in an exhibit by the Michelson Museum of Art in Marshall, Texas, last year and he spoke about it with the Marshall News Messenger:
“Right after the Civil War, well, during the Civil War, both the Union Army and the Confederate Army had negro troops in their ranks, over 200,000, and when the war ended in ‘65, the United States Army experimented with the idea of forming six black regiments of negro troops,” Snead said. “Now at that time, there were no officers, no negro officers in the military. So all the officers were white, and they trained these guys, and my concentration has been on the 9th and the 10th cavalry. Those were the ones that were referred as the Buffalo Soldiers, and they were referred to as the Buffalo Soldiers by the Plains Indians, who had never seen negro troops before. They’d only seen white troops.
“The reason that they called them Buffalo Soldiers is because of their black faces and their short black curly hair and the way they fought every time they encountered them in any type of skirmish,” Snead said. “They fought just like the buffalo. So the Indians equated that as these people being descendants of the buffalo. So they referred to them as buffalo soldiers, and that name kind of stuck.”
The Buffalo Soldiers were the only military in the New Mexico territory right after the Civil War, Snead said, and they protected and provided security for the settlers and pioneers moving west during that time. They also fought during the Indian Wars.
“So what I’ve done is I’ve put together this collection of paintings chronicling what they did, how they did it and how they contributed to the settling of the American West,” Snead said.
He created 167 pieces on the Buffalo Soldiers which toured the world many times over, his daughter Karen Partee says, with several original pieces now hanging in private collections through the country and the Texas Governor's Mansion. Twenty-six pieces are currently on permanent loan with the McCall Neighborhood Center in Central El Paso. Snead called El Paso home for 42 years before recently moving to Prosper to be with family during his four and a half year battle with advanced stage colon cancer.
An impassioned advocate for Texas arts and arts education across the state, Partee said, Snead was appointed by former Gov. George W. Bush to the Texas Commission on the Arts and as the designated artist on the committee to design the Texas State Quarter.
Aside from his artistic accomplishments, Snead had a 30-year career as a military aviator. He received three Purple Hearts during the Vietnam War, among other military honors. He starred in a touring one-man play called "Held in Trust: The Story of Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper," about the life, mistreatment and ultimate redemption of the first Black man to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The show was broadcast by PBS in 1996, featuring an introduction by Gen. Colin Powell, and garnered a Bronze Apple Award for Educational Excellence.