Robert Burnett Choate, Jr. was born in Boston, Massachusetts on November 6, 1924. As a child he was influenced by his grandmother, who worked in Boston's settlement houses. Choate graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1943 and attended Harvard as part of a Navy officer training program. He served in the Pacific during World War II and earned an engineering degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1949.
Choate moved to Phoenix in the late 1950s and abandoned his engineering career to devote himself to social activism after reading extensively on racial and social issues while recovering from hepatitis. His initiatives included job training for youth, feeding the hungry, and publishing a caustic and short-lived magazine called Reveille . Choate organized a conference in Phoenix to discuss poverty in the Southwest in 1965. He moved his family to Washington, D.C. in 1966, where he served as a consultant to the Nixon administration on nutritional issues and organized a White House conference on food and hunger issues in 1969. Choate organized the Council on Children, Media and Merchandising in 1970 and testified before Congress in July of that year regarding the poor nutritional content of many popular cereals. Choate died in Lemon Grove, California on May 3, 2009.
Choate was married twice, first to Audrey Evans and second to Laura Jean Emery. He had one child, Karen (Choate) Holland, with his first wife and three children, Christopher, Valerian, and Katrinka (Choate) Johnson, with his second.
From the guide to the Robert B. Choate Papers, 1959-1967, (Arizona State University Libraries Arizona Collection)