Robert Kirk Underhill (1906 -1997), a lifelong Anglophile who was the founder of the Robert Kirk clothing store that specialized in British goods, died in Marin County at the age of 90. Mr. Underhill, who was born in Berkeley, graduated from UC Berkeley in 1928 with a B.S. in Economics. He was devoted to British institutions and customs, which were reflected in his store’s offerings. The haberdasher sold raincoats, umbrellas and tweed caps for men and equally sturdy furnishings for women in surroundings that featured mahogany fittings and tartans emblazoned on the walls.
Mr. Underhill started the first of many “London Weeks” in San Francisco that amounted to trade shows and festivals for the English way of life. He was chairman emeritus of the English Speaking Union in San Francisco, a Commander of the British Empire and a Knight in the Order of St. John and served as a Major in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. The Robert Kirk clothing store, which opened in 1939, eventually was sold and became Cable Car Clothiers.
In 2003, the Robert Kirk Underhill Trust established the Center for British Studies at UC Berkeley that serves as a home to faculty and students interested in British culture, society and history. In 2012, the Robert Kirk Underhill Trust created the Anglo-American Studies Program with a $1M gift to the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies that aims to strengthen campus interest and knowledge of British affairs and their implications for the United States.