Earl Freudenberg: Remembering Dr. Lee Roberson

  • Thursday, April 27, 2023
  • Earl Freudenberg
Lee Roberson is in the Christian Hall of Fame
Lee Roberson is in the Christian Hall of Fame

During the last 100 years Dr. Lee Roberson had great impact on the Chattanooga Christian Community.  The world-renowned preacher died April 29,, 2007, at the age of 97.   Tennessee Temple students and church friends remember him as a man they’ll never forget although he’s been gone 16 years.

Dr. Roberson’s most famous slogan is “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”  In a 1975 interview with former student Mike Royer, Dr. Roberson didn’t remember when he coined that phrase but said he strongly believed it.

In that same interview, Dr. Roberson said he always gave an invitation to accept Christ at the end of each sermon; saying “that’s the most important part of my ministry.”

Dr. Roberson was born in English, Indiana, in a two-room house with no electricity.  At the age of 14, the dynamic preacher accepted Christ as his Savior at the Cedar Creek Baptist Church a few miles from Louisville, Kentucky.  He was called to preach at the age of 18.  

Dr. Roberson’s first pastoring job was in Germantown, Tennessee near Memphis where he spent a year. While there, Dr. Roberson visited and taught at the famous Bellevue Baptist Church were Dr. R.G Lee was pastor.

Dr. Roberson met his wife Caroline in Birmingham, Alabama while speaking at a revival meeting and they got married in 1937.  The Robersons had four children, Johnny, Lee Anne, June and Joy. 

The fourth child named Joy died from a crib death and, after purchasing 66 acres on Lake Chickamauga for $3,000; the pastor established Camp Joy for boys and girls naming it in memory of the young baby girl.

Dr. Roberson liked to sing and was on staff at WSM radio while pastoring a church near Nashville.  Dr. Roberson said he gave up professional singing because it would interfere with his preaching.

After pastoring several churches.  Dr. Roberson was called to the Highland Park Baptist Church in November 1942 where he served for over 40 years.  Dr. Roberson quickly realized a need for a school to train young preachers and missionaries so he started Tennessee Temple.

Dr. Roberson met Dr. J.R Faulkner who was pastoring South Rossville Baptist Church and he asked him to teach at Tennessee Temple.  The men quickly became good friends.  Dr.  Faulkner accepted the call to be Highland Park Baptist Church associate pastor and handled the music.  Dr. Roberson said he was impressed with Dr. Faulkner’s attention to details.

In the late 60’s, some Tennessee Temple students came to Dr. Roberson wanting to establish a Christian radio station and WDYN went on the air.  The station has gone through many changes but celebrates its 55th year of broadcasting this year, 

Chattanooga News Free Press Urban Affairs Editor J.B. Collins wrote a book in 1973 about the Roberson ministry, “Get a glimpse of the World’s Largest Church.”   When the late reporter turned 100 he said Dr. Roberson was a remarkable man establishing Tennessee Temple Schools to train preachers and missionaries, opening the Union Gospel Mission downtown, a daily radio ministry in addition to nearly 100 chapels in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.  Mr. Collins said, “The church and school are so much a part of Chattanooga’s history and Dr. Roberson was responsible for writing a lot of that history.”

During a visit to the school in 1984, News Free Press Publisher Roy McDonald thanked and praised Dr. Roberson for what he’d accomplished while pastor and chancellor of the school.  Mr. McDonald said Tennessee Temple was a great resource for finding good employees. “I could always depend on them to be on time and work hard; they are a credit to this school and Dr. Roberson.”

This writer became acquainted with the famous pastor in 1967 when filling in for the morning announcer on WDOD who had called in sick.  The station aired “Gospel Dynamite” at 8:30 and I was three minutes late putting the program on the air. (I had played a long record)   A short time after the program was over at 9:00 the phone rang.  The voice on the other end was Dr. Roberson, who identifies himself and said “Who’s speaking.”  I responded, “Earl Freudenberg.”   He asked the correct time and I gave it to him.  He said, “Young man, do you know what tine you put our program on the air, (short pause) Dr. Roberson continued, “You were three minutes late,  Our program starts at 8:30, not a minute early or late. Does this conversation need to go any further?”  I responded, “Oh, no sir.” Dr. Roberson said, “God Bless you young man” and he hung up the phone.  I found out quickly, Dr. Roberson said what he meant and meant what he said, one of the reasons his life impacted so many in a positive way. 

Dr. Roberson’s favorite Scripture was Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  His best preacher friend Dr. Lester Roloff said Dr. Roberson really lived by that verse. 

Lee Roberson and associate J.R. Faulkner
Lee Roberson and associate J.R. Faulkner
Historical Association Celebrates Acquisition Of 102-Year-Old Soddy Bank Building
Historical Association Celebrates Acquisition Of 102-Year-Old Soddy Bank Building
  • 5/25/2023

To continue the celebration and to join in the National Trust's May as "Preservation Month," the public is invited to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with the Soddy, Daisy and Montlake Historical ... more

Charleston Recreation Board Hosts First Annual Founder’s Day Event June 10
  • 5/24/2023

The city of Charleston Recreation Board will be hosting the first annual Founder’s Day event at Hoyt Berry Park, on Market Street Northeast in Charleston, on June 10 from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. The ... more

Books In Historic Chattanooga Photo Series Still Available
  • 5/22/2023

Copies of the first four books in the Historic Chattanooga Photos series, sponsored by Chattanoogan.com, are still available by mail. A fifth volume, More Old Chattanooga Photos , is planned ... more