Robert was born on April 23, 1915, in Freeport, son of George H. and Elizabeth Grace (Peck) Schmelzle. He grew up in Freeport, graduating from Freeport High School in 1932, where he and future fellow attorney Bert Snow were members of the FHS state championship debate team.
As a student at the University of Notre Dame, he also distinguished himself in debate, winning the prestigious Breen Medal in 1935. After graduating from Notre Dame College of Law in 1938, he returned to Freeport and set up a law practice with Robert P. Eckert.
On Nov. 21, 1940, he married Mary Regan at St. Mary Church in Sterling. Bob and Mary made their home in Freeport, raising six children and actively participating in the community.
Bob practiced law for over 60 years as a partner in the law firm of Eckert, Schmelzle, and Eckert, and later Schmelzle and Kroeger. During that time, he obtained many professional achievements. He was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Illinois, served as Referee in Bankruptcy in Illinois, and was Corporation Counsel for the City of Freeport during the mayoral terms of Joe Shelly. Together, they were instrumental in bringing Kelly Springfield Tire Co. to Freeport.