Obituary: Robert “Bob” H. Piestewa

Robert “Bob” H. Piestewa Ames, a trailblazing Hopi Indian, first Native American Stanford Law School graduate, and devoted family man, passed away peacefully at his Salinas, CA home on Dec. 5, 2023, at the age of 94.

Born on Feb. 26, 1929, in Winslow, AZ, to Mary Meade Holloman Piestewa and Harry Piestewa. Bob’s early years instilled in him the values of hard work, athleticism, and education. A standout athlete in high school, he excelled in four sports and became one of the first Eagle Scouts in Arizona.

Enrolling at Stanford in 1947, Bob’s life changed forever. His Stanford years were marked by friendships formed in the Theta Chi fraternity, playing shortstop on the Stanford baseball team, and working various jobs on campus to fund his education. Bob received his BA in Economics in 1951 and J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1954. After graduating from law school and preparing to take the bar, he worked construction, contributing to the building of Crothers Memorial Hall on Stanford campus.

Bob’s legal career began in Salinas, where he joined the law firm of Stave and Bryan. In 1958, he married Emmy Badger, and they settled in Salinas, dedicating themselves to community service and raising their three daughters. Bob’s legal achievements included the successful defense of a migrant agricultural bus driver in a landmark case that reshaped farm labor bus laws and ended the “Bracero Program.”

Bob was deeply involved in Salinas’ civic life, serving as an active member of the Salinas Jay- cees, a board member for the Salinas “Lettuce Bowl,” and as president of the YMCA for 3 years. Bob was especially proud of the work he did as campaign manager for his good friend Henry Hibino in his run and election to the Salinas City Council.

In the late ‘60s, Bob was asked by the elders of the Hopi Tribe to advance the tribal judicial system. As the Tribal Court Chief for 20 years, Bob worked very hard to make the courts something that the Hopi people could understand but hoped that the people would continue to practice their customs and traditions as they did in the past in resolving disputes. His commitment to American Indian causes ex- extended to his time on Alcatraz in 1969, where he offered legal assistance during a pivotal moment in American Indian political history. Additionally, he assisted the Southern Ute Nation and served on the boards of the Museum of Arizona and The Heard Museum.

In 1991, Bob received a Presidential Nomination to the Board of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). Sandra Day O’Connor presided over his swearing-in ceremony at the US Supreme Court. This appointment solidified what became an over 40-year passion for all that was Santa Fe for both Bob and Emmy and their family.

Bob’s unwavering loyalty to Stanford was manifested through over 60 years of volunteer service. Recognized in 2011 with the 16th “Stanford Medal,” Bob served on the Stanford Athletic board, the Stanford Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, and the Stanford Associates Board of Governors. He was also an ardent supporter and mentor at Stanford’s Native American Cultural Center, earning induction into the Multicultural Hall of Fame in 2004. Bob cherished the friendships made while at- attending Stanford Sierra Camp - Week 6 for 30 years. One of Bob’s fondest Stanford Sports memories was being asked to sit on the bench as the honorary captain for a Stanford Women’s basketball game during the 2016-2017 season.

Once you met Bob, he was your loyal friend for life. He loved dancing with Emmy, a good Manhattan and their favorite song “My Funny Valentine.” He was a Jazz music lover, and read every Louis L’Amour and Tony Hillerman novel at least three times. His other favorite sport was “The Stocking Game” played on Christmas Day with his family and anyone else he could get to join. You were always welcome to stay over at his house, have dinner with him or “come by the tailgate” to enjoy a hot dog and a glass of red wine with him.

Bob is preceded in death by his mother Mary, father Har- ry and stepfather Carlisle “Tib” Ames, his brothers Billy, Ernie and Terry, his sister Harriet and his niece Lori Ann Piestewa and nephew Loren Piestewa.

Bob is survived by his wife Emmy, daughters Lauren Ames and her partner Tom Bennett, Leslie and her husband Brian Owen and Kristen Ames and her husband Jeff Carter. Grandchildren Kyle Owen and his wife Giovanna and their son Bryson, Courtney Owen and Annie (Owen) and her husband Arber Nasi and their son Tucker.

He is also survived by his sister Loy Coin, sister-in-law Percy Piestewa, nephews Scott Ames, Wayland, Adam, John and Kevin Piestewa, and nieces Shelly Ames, Carlotta Piestewa and their families.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made in memory of Robert Ames to the Stanford Department of Athletics online at You may also mail a check to Stanford University Development Services, P.O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA 94309-0466. Please make checks payable to Stanford University and include a note with the check or indicate on the memo line that the gift is made “In memory of Robert Ames for Department of Athletics.

Services and reception will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday Dec. 28, 2023, at Salinas Valley Community Church, 368 San Juan Grade Road, Salinas, California.

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