Hank Royer

Hank Royer in his office at Royer & Royer Chartered. The family business has worked in that office since 1914.

Robert “Hank” Royer could have hundreds of articles written about him. He’s been on several committees, boards and clubs in Abilene. He served as a municipal judge and is now a director of the Jeffcoat Memorial Foundation. He’s even won awards for his volunteer work. All this he juggled while working full-time at his family’s law business. In an article written by Sharon Montague for The Salina Journal published May 22, 1988, Royer told Montague he worked approximately 60-70 hours a week.

Most people who have worked in Abilene long enough know all this about Royer though. So, for this one article, let’s dive into some of the stories and details people may not know about him. 

Veteran

Royer served in the United States Navy as a petty officer in charge of bookkeeping for two years during the Vietnam War. He originally signed up for the Navy Reserves, but was then moved to active duty.

“I signed up for the Navy Reserves and was supposed to have a deferment to get through college and go in as an officer. I guess I overachieved and became qualified as an enlisted man,” Royer said. “Shortly after Thanksgiving in 1968 I got a notice, ‘please report to San Diego as an enlisted man for active duty in Vietnam.’”

The Navy’s reason for pulling Royer into active duty sooner than planned was because they were short-handed in the area of bookkeeping.

“I was the only one who ran the office. The officer [and I] had an agreement. He would only come down when I needed an officer to sign something. I ran the office and received a Navy achievement medal. We were pretty efficient.”    

Royer was deployed to Vietnam twice. During his time in service, his fellow soldiers and him would at times talk about their background and where they were from.

“I learned a little about human nature, and that’s probably why I got my degree in psychology originally, because I learned we all bring different experiences to life,” Royer said. “I learned about other people, their lifestyles and what they had to deal with that we didn’t have to deal with in Abilene.”

Patrolman

While Royer was studying for his law degree at the Washburn University of Topeka, he worked as a patrolman for the Topeka Police Department to help pay for his bills. His hours were 11:00 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

“It interested me. I knew I’d see different life experiences that way, and I did see some things that I never want to see again as a policeman.”

During that job, Royer decided he wanted to pursue law as a career opposed to psychology so he could be “the captain of my own ship.” While serving in the Navy, Royer decided this partly due to questionable decisions by superiors. That desire was bolstered while working for the Topeka police.

“I saw that in the police department in Topeka, that it was strictly on a seniority basis. There was a supervisor to me that had never [worked] on the street. Because he got some seniority, they put him out on the street and put him in charge of myself and some others. They were working pretty tough areas in Topeka from 11 at night to seven in the morning and dealing with serious crime. He came out, had never been a patrolman and suggested how we do things that really wouldn’t have worked very well. That reinforced that I didn’t want to take orders from anyone else.” 

Family Business

Royer didn’t really know what he wanted to do for a career as a kid. His high school required 9th graders to write a paper on what career they wanted to pursue when they graduated. Royer searched through the possible career materials the school had, and came up still uninspired. 

“I couldn’t find much.... I said ‘hell I’ll just say I’ll be a lawyer. I got some basic information.’ That was the default. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I had the Vietnam experience and then became a policeman in Topeka.” 

So he decided law was for him, continueing the family business, Royer and Royer Chartered. Royer’s family has practiced law since his grandfather in 1882. Royer’s great-grandfather and grandfather founded the family’s law practice in 1882. Their office has been on the second floor of 1/2 101 Third St. since 1914.

Jo Ann

Royer returned to Abilene to live after he graduated from law school mainly because of how safe the town was, making it an ideal place to raise a family. 

“At least for a couple years when I checked it, we had the lowest crime rate in the state of Kansas for any town with a population of 5,000 or more. So we were essentially crime free at that point,” Royer said. “We didn’t lock our door. The kids, when we had a movie theater, could walk to the theater, walk to the swimming pool, you didn’t worry about them.” 

That was important to Royer, since he wanted a family. So, his wife Jo Ann and him decided to live in Abilene and raise their two children. They’ve stayed in Abilene for 47 years now. 

“I think [my kids] treasured growing up in Abilene, As our grandchildren fell in love. They came to visit. One of my granddaughters lives here in Abilene.”  

Colorblindness

Looking through pictures of Royer, most of the time he is wearing a colorful suit. Due to him being colorblind, Jo Ann has bought a majority of the suits he wears. Royer said he doesn’t mind wearing  and “kind of enjoys” the fancy suits his wife picks. 

“I can see basic colors. I know this is gold, that’s blue, but I’m seeing an entirely different color. Since I was a baby, I was told this is blue and this is gold. So I call them that, but because of the way my eyes function, I see something entirely different then what you do.”

Royer does have trouble distinguishing pastel colors such as pink or baby blue. 

“My wife does assist me in making sure things match. We have a joke about that. She was traveling some. I’d come to the office, my secretary would tell me whether my tie went with that outfit or not and might send me home to change.” 

While it kept him out of the Naval Academy, Royer did pass the colorblind test of matching colored yarn strings for his pilot’s licenses at age 14. Another story Royer had is with his colorblind uncle who also worked around the colorblind test.

“They have a book and you see all the dots and you see the number in there. Well he memorized the page number, what number was supposed to be seen and he did that. He went all the way through the military as a SAC pilot, flying jets, bombers and everything else.”

Antique Cars

Royer used to store antique cars in an underground area underneath Buckeye Street. When Royer began as an attorney in Abilene, he wanted to make money on the side because of the “slim pickings” of attorney opportunities in the area. So he began a corporation of buying and selling antique cars. His family became corporation members.

“We could travel around the United States going to car auctions, buy antique cars we thought were underpriced and then resell them. I put my kids through college with that money.” 

There used to be a John Deere dealership by the family law office. Part of the dealership’s property was a basement that stretched underneath Buckeye Street where the dealership would fix their tractors. With permission from the owner, Royer had around 12 cars stored down there at any given time.

While he’s sold most of the cars and ended that business, he still owns two: a fully restored 1938 Chevy and a yellow Ford Mustang convertible. The 1938 Chevy is the car Jo Ann first learned to drive. The Mustang has a history of parades.  

“[The Mustang] is a parade car. Senator Nancy Kassebaum, who I was a campaign manager for, she rode it in a parade, so she wasn’t riding a horse because they didn’t want a big ostentatious vehicle, so they used the little Mustang. Bob Dole, whenever he was in central Kansas and needed to be in a parade, he wanted that rather than a big Cadillac or something,” Royer said. 

Looking Back

When he turned 55 years old, Royer said he made the conscious decision to drop one organization each year. He did this for two reasons: first, to donate money from the Jeffcoat Memorial Foundation without moral dilemmas, and second, to allow the younger generations to volunteer in their community. 

“I think the key thing is Abilene is a great town and I’m glad in my time I had the opportunity to help keep things going, save things, whatever. I was willing to pass the mantle along to the next generation that are doing it now. I think that’s the right way. When it’s your time, it’s your time.”  

Now that he has weaned himself away from volunteering mostly, Hank Royer is happy with how he’s spent his time over the years. There is one regret he has.

 “I wish in reflection that I had spent more time with my family. I tried to be a family man, but often I had evening meetings, lunch meetings and I had to budget my time. My family probably suffered there.”  

 

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