Robert C. Watson was born in Washington, D.C., on November 21, 1890. His father was a patent attorney. 

Watson received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Lehigh University, where he was an intercollegiate heavy-weight wrestling champion. His first job was in Baltimore with the Pennsylvania Railroad. He earned a law degree from Georgetown University in 1917.

He served in the U.S. Army in World War I. In 1922 he married Sarah Latimer, daughter of a U.S. senator from South Carolina. Watson practiced patent law in Washington for about 30 years until President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him commissioner of patents. He took the oath of office on February 18, 1953.

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