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22May2014

SEARCH Visionary Bob Marx: 1936–2014

robert-marxRobert L. Marx, who spent the bulk of his career working for SEARCH and who was a significant leadership presence in the earliest days of Project SEARCH, passed away May 2, 2014, in Sunnyvale, California, after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife, Mary Helen, five children, and eight grandchildren.

Bob retired in January 2000 as a Senior System Specialist, and the SEARCH Board honored him later that year with the O.J. Hawkins Award, our highest practitioner honor.

For over 33 years, Bob was involved in designing, implementing and evaluating criminal justice information and identification systems across the country. He gained a national reputation as a visionary who could “see the future,” and who sought innovative ways to solve the problems and challenges confronting the justice community.

National Contributions

Bob made many fundamental and crucial contributions nationally:

  • III. He played a significant supporting role in the original design of what developed into the Interstate Identification Index.  Bob had an early vision of the need for a “pointer system” for conducting interstate and federal-state criminal history record checks. This vision, combined with his strong advocacy, laid the groundwork for the decentralized record system that is in place today.
  • AFIS. Bob recognized early on that the justice automation challenges facing the states involved more than creating computerized criminal history records systems to accomplish interstate rap sheet exchange. He perceived that the problem was more complex: it involved ensuring the reliability of the identification function, specifically, the accuracy of fingerprint identifications. Because of his concern, he developed a strong interest and expertise in identification technologies, particularly automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS). He became a nationally recognized expert in state AFIS procurements, criminal history systems technology, and the design, analysis and evaluation of information systems used by state identification bureaus.
  • Rap Sheets. Bob held a central role in efforts to develop a national model rap sheet, and then worked closely with the FBI and others on a Joint Task Force on Rap Sheet Standardization to finalize a standard interstate rap sheet and develop national specifications that will enable electronic transmission of rap sheet data.
  • XML. Shortly before he retired, Bob saw the great potential of a relatively new way of exchanging information, called eXtensible Markup Language (XML).  Though greeted with skepticism at first, Bob persevered in laying the groundwork for what became the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM) and National Information Exchange Model (NIEM)—standards at the center of virtually everything we do in integrated justice today. 

Work for SEARCH

Bob served as Deputy Project Director of Project SEARCH from 1969 through 1973. In those early days, he oversaw the installation by AT&T of the telephone lines to hook up the computers from the original six states that took part in Project SEARCH’s demonstration of interstate exchange of criminal history records.

In the dozen or so years prior to his retirement from SEARCH, Bob provided technical assistance to criminal justice agencies nationwide, primarily in the areas of AFIS, criminal history system improvements, and integrated systems technology. He also addressed dozens of conferences and symposia, served on numerous task forces and committees, and authored many significant national reports on such topics as AFIS evaluation guidelines, master plans for identification system upgrades, and designing a model state identification bureau.

Bob was like ohana (family) to Hawaii. Our association started almost 30 years ago as the State was making its entry into the AFIS world and I was starting my career in criminal justice information. What a mentor! But that was only the start, and with Bob’s visionary guidance he ushered Hawaii into the end-to-end electronic processing world. He was convinced and eventually convinced us that livescanning of fingerprints and the electronic capture of booking information was essential for true lights-out criminal identification…and was he right! I will personally miss Bob, as he was our friend and his family was our family…Aloha Bob, and Mahalo!
— Liane Moriyama (Hawaii), SEARCH Board Member

Bob also developed curriculum for, and taught at, national criminal history data quality audit workshops, where officials learned how state criminal history repositories work. During his career, he visited, consulted for or conducted research at virtually every state identification bureau in the country.

In addition, Bob designed and programmed the first public domain software system for maintaining an identification master name index. These and so many other accomplishments were the hallmark of a long and productive career in service to our nation and the mission of SEARCH.

Naval and Consulting Career

Bob was a graduate of Marquette University, and was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, serving 6 years aboard the USS Norfolk. He also studied at the Naval Postgraduate School and was assigned to Naval Intelligence at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. In 1964, he accepted a position with Sylvania Electronic Defense Systems in California.

In addition to his time working with SEARCH, Bob spent a number of years as founder and president of various computer and technology consulting firms. In this role, he provided justice consulting to the U.S. Senate and many state and local governments.

Bob’s family is planning a celebration of his life, to be held June 13, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Nicholas Church, 473 Lincoln Avenue, Los Altos, California. In recognition of the many years that Bob spent working in Hawaii, the family plans to wear their brightest Aloha attire at the celebration, and they invite other guests to do the same.

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