Bob was a native of Ennis, Texas, and credited his hometown with providing him the opportunity to prepare for his career. In high school he accompanied every singer in town, played in the high school band and was part-time organist in the Presbyterian Church. He credited band director Thomas Granger as the mentor who gave the biggest push to send him on his way. While a junior in high school he assisted Mr. Granger in writing and arranging the school Alma Mater "Maroon and White" that has lasted since 1937.
He attended Southern Methodist University where he arranged for the Mustang Band and the Pigskin Revue, directed Script and Score, and organized his dance band that toured with Interstate Theaters Production of College Capers, where he met his wife, Alice.
After college, he served three years on a destroyer in the United States Navy.
Bob began his career in television in 1948. While pursuing his PhD and teaching radio courses on campus at Northwestern University, Banner worked evenings in Chicago at local television station WMAQ as a production assistant on the children's show Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Advancements came quickly in those early days, and he soon became director of Garroway at Large, a local show that was picked up by NBC.
Fred Waring, impressed with his directorial skill, asked Banner to join him at CBS as producer/director of The Fred Waring Show. The challenge of working in this new experimental medium proved great enough to lure Bob away from academia. So, with only eleven hours needed to obtain his doctorate degree, he opted to leave Northwestern to pursue a television career in New York City.
While in New York, Bob also directed Omnibus, hosted by Alistair Cooke. The weekly series on CBS is often credited as the forerunner to television's cultural PBS network. In the early 1950s, he moved to Los Angeles when the once-experimental medium had matured and was heading west.
During the Golden Age of Television, Bob was one of the prime movers of variety programming. The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, which he produced and directed, garnered myriad awards including three Emmy Awards, two Christopher Awards, and two Peabody Awards.
In 1958, he formed Bob Banner Associates (BBA). BBA's first production was The Garry Moore Show with regulars Durward Kirby, Carol Burnett, and Marion Lorne. The program ran for 218 episodes and won several Emmys, including one for Carol Burnett.
In the early 1960s, Carnegie Hall was targeted for demolition and Bob was asked by Isaac Stern to produce a special to save the cultural landmark. Salute to Jack Benny at Carnegie Hall starred Isaac Stern, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, Van Cliburn, Benny Goodman, and Roberta Peters.
This was quickly followed by another special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, starring Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett which garnered three Emmys and the International Golden Rose Award.
According to the Associated Press, Banner died on June 15, 2011 in Los Angeles at age 89. Family spokeswoman Lauren Cottrell told the Los Angeles Times that Banner died of Parkinson's disease at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital retirement community in suburban Woodland Hills. In recent years, Bob lived with his wife, Alice in Calabasas, California. Their three sons, Baird, Robert III, and Chuck live in Los Cerrillos, Dallas, and Los Angeles, respectively.
A year after Banner's death, BBA filed a lawsuit against Carol Burnett's production company Whacko Inc. over royalty rights regarding the distribution of the syndicated half-hour show Carol Burnett and Friends on television, and The Carol Burnett Show and Mama's Family episodes on home video. Whacko, Inc. representatives have countered during ongoing litigation that Banner left the show after five years, and no sketches from those first five years have been included on Carol Burnett and Friends episodes, nor on any Burnett performances that were released on DVD until 2015. In 2015, episodes from the first five seasons of The Carol Burnett Show were issued on DVDs for the first time subtitled The Lost Episodes.
Whacko, Inc. has since sought, and received, an injunction barring BBA from marketing a DVD featuring Burnett's appearances on The Garry Moore Show from 1959 to 1962, during which she performed as a member of the program's ensemble cast. The complaint alleges that "...the DVD and its promotional artwork confuse the public by falsely suggesting that the starring performer on the DVD is Carol Burnett".
Other recognition over the years include:Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University
Distinguished Service medal as VP of ATAS.
Distinguished Alumni Award from Southern Methodist University
Dallas TACA Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts
6 Christopher Awards
5 Awards of Excellence
1 Emmy Award