Longtime North Chattanooga Church of God pastor Marshall Roberson has died at a Cleveland, Tn., hospital.
He was one week away from celebrating his 98th birthday.
Dr. Roberson was born and raised in Cleveland. He attended Bradley Central High School and has been a member of the North Cleveland Church of God for the last 20 years.
He was also a 50-year plus member of the Civitan Club.
Family members said, "Marshall accepted Christ as his savior at a young age and committed his life in service to his Lord. Growing up, he attended the North Cleveland Church of God and was inspired by many great pastors. It was at this church that he first saw a beautiful brown-eye girl named Mary, later to become his wife, singing in the church choir.
"The next Sunday, he joined the choir and the rest is history. They had four children and raised them to be active in the church. One of Marshall’s greatest brag is that all his children are Christians and are active in their local churches.
"His lifelong ambition was to lead others to Christ."
He was a Church of God minister for over 50 years pastoring a church in Nashville and several in East Tennessee, including the North Chattanooga Church of God where he pastored for 17 years.
His family said, "Every church he pastored enjoyed the blessings of the Lord and experienced growth."
His close friend, the Reverend Max Morris, called him a “pastor’s pastor.” His ingredient for successful pastoring was "to stay faithful to Christ, genuinely love the people, stay humble, and provide a vision for the church."
He served on many boards in the Church of God and was considered several times for higher leadership positions within the organization but declined to continue his calling to pastor. Late in his life he declined to retire from his calling saying he wanted to serve God even in the “fourth quarter” of his life. He and his wife, Dorothy, conducted religious services at the Bradley County Nursing Home every week until his health started to fail.
His ministry was not limited to the church. The late Governor Frank Clement appointed him as the chaplain of the Main Prison in Nashville. As chaplain, one of his duties was to witness seven electrocutions. Of the seven, he helped lead six to Christ as they prepared for death.
He and Max Morris would also conduct services each Sunday, leading the inmates in religious songs and him preaching. "It is inestimable how many of those hardened criminals accepted Christ and changed their lives as a result of this prison ministry," it was stated. Marshall was the first prison chaplain in the Church of God.
In 1963 Governor Clement appointed Dr. Roberson to the State Pardon and Parole Board. This board determines whether an inmate should be paroled, or set free, from prison.
A few years later, he was appointed chairman of the board, a first not only for a Church of God minister but also for a minister of any denomination. He was reappointed to the board under Governor Buford Ellington.
His family said, "He not only preached Christ, but he lived it wherever he was and people noticed. Everyone associated with him recognized Marshall’s Christian reputation. Governor Clement would often ask Marshall to pray with him before they parted from a meeting.
"Marshall was always a courageous soldier of the cross, faithful to the end, rejoicing and singing the hymns of old, while continuously praising his Savior. His confidence and faith in Christ was contagious. Our loss is Heaven’s gain."
His parents were Carlos and Ethel Roberson, and his first wife was Mary. He also had a brother, Carlos Jr.; and grandchildren Eddie Joe and Keri Hughes, who died earlier.
Survivors include his second wife, Dorothy; sister, Edythe Hathcock; daughters: Brenda (Dale) Hughes and Karen (Bill) Winters; sons: Eddie (Kathy), and Dewey (Teresa); and stepchildren: Miriam (Harold) Wood and Saundra Rose. He especially enjoyed the company of his eight grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Surviving grandchildren are Richie (Stephanie) Hughes, Jeni (Chad) Turner, Robbie (Amber) Winters, Heather (Mark) Johnson, Brooke (Matt) Jeter, Claire (Ryan) Wood, Ryan (Lindsey) Roberson and Meredith (Craig) Mosgrove. One niece and several nephews also survive him.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday at the North Chattanooga Ministry Center on 2929 Hamill Road with the Reverends Jimmie Talley and Jerry McNabb officiating. That visitation will be from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the Ministry Center. Interment will follow in Hamilton Memorial Gardens.
The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Marshall Roberson endowment scholarship at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, PO Box 3330, Cleveland TN 37320-3330.
Fike Randolph and Son Funeral Home has charge of arrangements.