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Obituary: Robert Reese Briggs, 1929 - 2015

Robert Briggs PhotoRobert Briggs passed away in serenity last weekend, with loving friends and family at his side in Portland, Oregon. He was among the last of the Beat Generation who tilted the American experience on its axel in the 1950s. Like so many others, Robert struggled with the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, until his last exhalation on May 29, 2015.

Briggs was born in Omaha, Nebraska -- the year of “The Crash,” on June 11, 1929. As a teenager, his father moved their family to New York. It was the Great Depression and there was work on the East Coast to support his mother, sister Betty Jo and Robert. He attended school in Leonia, New Jersey and then Englewood School for Boys, where he played football. He was scouted there for a football scholarship to Auburn University. Later, he served in the Korean War, as a 2nd Lieutenant, and returned to New York and attended Columbia University. Briggs eventually followed The Beats to San Francisco and fell in love with the city, living there for 31 years. He married briefly and had a child, Hillary Shannon, with Barbara Steele.

In the early 1970s, Robert co-founded the San Francisco Book Company and then Robert Briggs Associates, as a literary agent and small West Coast publisher. In 1977, Robert Briggs married Diana Saltoon in San Francisco. They moved to Portland, Oregon in 1990 and joined tea ceremony and Zen communities together. Briggs was a lifelong writer and poet, known for his books, poetry and jazz readings.

He authored three books, The American Emergency: A Search for Spiritual Renewal in an Age of Materialism (1986), Ruined Time: The 1950s and the Beat (2006) and a third that is currently in draft, Unexpected Joys & Trials of One American Life (2015).

Robert recorded CDs of his poetry and jazz performances in Portland, Oregon and he also read at the Players’ Club in New York City.

Robert BriggsHe is survived by his wife of 38 years, Diana Saltoon-Briggs, daughter - Hillary Shannon (Briggs) Sheperd - and an immense sea of loving friends, artists and musicians, who were his extended and adopted family.

Friends suggest that, in lieu of flowers or cards for the family, please consider donating to the production of Bob’s last book noted above via:

To reach the family, you can send an email to

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