A Chattanooga pastor who was godlike to several generations of churchgoers, college students and religious officials across the country is remembered in a new authorized biography for his evangelistic bent and his single-mindedness.
"Lee Roberson: Always About His Father's Business," a biography the subject himself authorized well before his death in 2007, was published recently by Xulon Press and is available through Amazon.com or the publisher.
Author James H. Wigton, senior pastor of Delaney Street Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., said he came to admire Roberson more as he researched and wrote about him than he did when he knew him as the longtime pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church and founder of Tennessee Temple University.
"He stands as a monumental pastor with an evangelistic church in the eyes of many, many Baptists," he said.
Wigton said he first knew Roberson by reputation and later came to know him personally when he had Roberson speak at churches he pastored. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he said he was approached by officials close to Roberson around 2000 and asked to do the book.
He said he was able to interview the longtime pastor for several hours in his research, which included reading almost every book the pastor wrote - as well as many others - and interviews with some 40 people.
The Roberson he wrote about, Wigton said, was "a maverick" and "very much his own man."
However, he said, the pastor didn't shop, didn't care for small talk and didn't socialize. J.R. Faulkner, his loyal assistant pastor from 1949 to 1983, was said to have been invited to his house only three times over the years.
One man close to Roberson said the pastor would be shocked if he knew what they paid for a
pair of shoes for him, Wigton said. Another related a story about a Tennessee Temple University display that had been set up for a special day at a local mall in the 1970s.
"What do they do at a mall?" the pastor wanted to know.
It was longtime First Presbyterian pastor Ben Haden, according to Wigton, who described Roberson as "always about his father's business."
"He was very single-minded," the author said.
Wigton said Roberson knew exactly what he was doing when, sensing a moderating body, he pulled Highland Park Baptist out of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1950s. Because of the SBC's return to its biblical roots, Wigton said, the pullout probably wouldn't have happened today.
"[The church's independent Baptist status] was always a shadow over the church," he said. "Some of the fundamentalist independent Baptists would want to paint him as more of a banner carrier for them than he was. But he was not an enemy of Southern Baptists [either]."
Wigton said his commitment to evangelism, whether it be by the spoken word, the printed word, missions or radio, is Roberson's hallmark.
"He was about bringing people to Christ," he said.