Dad ca 2010 with caption (300dpi)
Samuel Kelton Roberts
  • 70 years old
  • Date of birth: Sep 1, 1944
  • Place of birth:
    Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States
  • Date of passing: Feb 24, 2015
  • Place of passing:
    Baltimore, Maryland, United States
A life truly well lived

Please note that a site which will contain some of Rev. Dr. Roberts's unpublished lecture, sermon, meditation, and workshop notes has been established at Thank you.


The Rev. Dr. Samuel Kelton Roberts, Sr. of New York, NY; Richmond, VA; and most recently Columbia, MD, passed into eternal rest on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, following a brief illness but a much longer life of service as a preacher and minister, theologian, ethicist, historian of religion, and mentor. Born to Hattie Harper Roberts and the Rev. Foster Roberts on September 1, 1944, in Muskogee, OK, Samuel was called to the ministry at the age of 16, and in the summer of his seventeenth year preached his first sermon, at Jerusalem Baptist Church, where his father had been pastor until his death in 1955. Samuel graduated from the Manual Training High School in 1962, and graduated in 1967 from Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA), where he joined the Alpha Phi Alpha service fraternity, majored in English, and spent a year in France on a Merrill Travel and Study Grant, receiving a diploma in French Studies at the Université de Lyon in 1966 During his time at Morehouse, Samuel was apprenticed to the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Pastor of Atlanta’s West Hunter Baptist Church, and lieutenant to Civil Rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Roberts also began a courtship with Valerie Hermoine Fisher, daughter of Geraldine Garrett Fisher and the Rev. Albert Franklin Fisher, who had pastored West Hunter until his death in the 1950s, and who, like Samuel would a few years later, had earned a divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. The two married on June 1, 1968 (ceremony performed by Rev. Abernathy, at West Hunter) soon after Valerie’s graduation from Bryn Mawr College. The two remained together for twenty-eight years, separating amicably.

Roberts continued his religious and scholarly training in New York City, taking a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1970. Between 1970 and 1973, Roberts was a minister at the Congregational Church of South Hempstead (South Hempstead, NY), while also working to complete a PhD from Columbia University in 1974. Subsequent academic faculty positions included those at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (1973-76) and Union Theological Seminary (1976-1980). In 1980 he was invited to join the faculty of Virginia Union University, in Richmond, as Dean of the College. This position he held for five years before returning to teaching and pastoring the Garland Avenue Baptist Church (Richmond, 1986-1996). Samuel’s life of service in Richmond included extensive ministerial and charitable work, membership in the Virginia Interfaith Center, and Board membership and other positions in the Young Men’s Christian Association of the USA.

For fifteen years, between 1986 and 2001, he held the title of Professor of Christian Ethics at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University, and was Director of its Doctor of Ministry Program from 1994 to 2001. In 2001, he joined the Union Presbyterian Seminary as the Anne Borden and E. Hervey Evans Professor of Theology and Ethics. In the summer of 2014 he retired from academic teaching, but not from his life of service and faith which he maintained until his final days. Dr. Roberts’s published books included African American Christian Ethics (Pilgrim Press, 2001); Born to Preach: Essays in Honor of the Ministry of Henry and Ella Mitchell, editor, (Judson Press, 2000); In the Path of Virtue: The African American Moral Tradition (Pilgrim Press, 1999); The Expanded Mission of ‘Old First’ Churches (co-authored with Raymond J. Bakke, Judson Press, 1986), which was reprinted in 1998 as The Expanded Mission of Center City Churches (International Associates, 1998).

Dr. Samuel Kelton Roberts is survived by Rose Robinson (his wife since 2010), Joyce Roberts Jones (his sister), Samuel Jr. and Franklin (his sons), Zaire Graves (granddaughter), Deidre Jones (niece), Deidre’s sons (Khalil and Desmond), and his loving church family of First Baptist Church of Vienna, Virginia. 


This memorial website was created in memory of the Lord's servant and our beloved father, grandfather, uncle, brother, and husband, Rev. Dr. Samuel Kelton Roberts. He was born on September 1, 1944, in Muskogee, OK, and passed away on February 24, 2015, in Baltimore, MD, at the age of 70. We will remember him forever.

This site is a work in progress. You are invited to post here any fond remembrance or tribute. Please note that we are currently organizing Rev. Dr. Roberts's personal and professional archive. We have established a site which contains some of his unpublished lecture, sermon, meditation, and workshop notes (at We are also collecting photographs, program bulletins, letters, etc. If you would like to share copies or originals with the family, please contact Samuel Jr. at

Thank you,
the family 


Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Dr. Valerie Mccoy on 24th February 2016

"Dr. Samuel B. Roberts  -  When I think of my dear friend, I say "What a gifted human being and I was fortunate to know him!"  He had such kindness and forgiveness towards others; even at times when they were not so deserving.  He was a very gentle man with sparkling eyes, a quick smile and a most powerful command for exhibiting a wealth of intellectual knowledge on all who were fortunate to meet him as their paths crossed his. Sam you are truly missed."

This tribute was added by Amanda Montague on 24th February 2016

"My friend, Sam, how I miss him soooo much.  He would come into my office or call me almost every day, and I would go up to his office and we'd talk.

He's thought of often, and I can just see that smile and hear that voice.  A very loving person, and always kind."

This tribute was added by Raphael Travis on 23rd September 2015

"Wishing all of the friends and family of Samuel Sr. fond memories, and sustained inspiration from his legacy. The pictures are a small but powerful glimpse into the many lives he influenced in such a positive way. I can see where a man who I in many ways consider my brother (Sam Jr.) gets it from."

This tribute was added by Samuel Roberts, Jr. on 1st September 2015

"Tuesday 1 September 2015

Dear Dad,

As I write this, it is the evening of what would have been your seventy-first birthday. Were you with us, I’d have called you to wish you many happy returns. Perhaps I’d be with you as I was a year ago when a bunch of your friends and family convened at the Rusty Scupper restaurant in Baltimore’s inner harbor district. After that, at your explicit request, we took you to Martin State Airport outside the city to see one of the few remaining genuine operating and almost fully functional (minus its warmaking machinery) World-War-II-era B-17 bombers. For a small fee, we were allowed on the tarmac, where we could watch the plane land, take a brief tour inside the craft, exit, and then watch it take off again. For four hundred dollars we could have even flown in it with about ten other passengers seated at the navigator’s desk, the radioman’s terminal, the bombadier’s perch, or even a gunner’s turret. True to your modest and frugal fashion, you assured us that, while it would have been nice, you didn’t need to fly in the plane for that amount of money. We insisted that we had no problem chipping in for you to do it, but you demurred. We watched the plane. Franklin and I took a tour of the craft’s interior with you. We took pictures. Most of us were actually bored with the whole thing, but it was worth the trip to see you so enthralled. What I did not know until thirty minutes ago when I looked it up online (, was that this particular “flying fortress,” as B-17s had come to be known, had come to Maryland to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the final mission of the storied Memphis Belle, the most famous of the B-17s. The Memphis Belle was the first B-17 to successfully complete its scheduled twenty-five wartime missions with no casualties. You probably knew this – this whole excursion, after all, was your idea, and you’d probably read about it in the newspaper. I do remember thinking – and I told my wife this on our drive home to New York – that it was as though, on your seventieth birthday, you had wanted to see something older than yourself that was fully functional, full of life, and still fighting. We were intensely bored, but we stayed as long as you wanted – only a couple of hours -- and we could have stayed all week if that had made you happy.

You were in perfect health then, Pop. Your retirement, only a few months before, had signaled only your retreat from formal teaching, not a decision to disengage from an active life of church and volunteer service, scholarship, and writing. You recently had told me that you looked forward to completing at least two book projects now that you didn’t have to worry about your duties to the seminary. But that was not to be. The disease which soon after felled you was as rapid in its onset and ultimate denouement as it had been rare, mysterious, and incurable. We watched your decline, dumbfounded, impotent, and enraged at what we were forced witness. God bless her, your wife, Rose, had had a front-row seat from the beginning to the end, even during those months when the rest of us were in denial about the seriousness of your condition. The doctors at the University of Maryland were diligent and kind (and in the fog of war, I must admit, I cannot remember any of their sainted names but I trust that you watch over them now), but there was nothing to be done.

Well, Pop, it’s not entirely true that there was nothing to be done. For you knew that you had one last thing to do, to face your death with a dignity worthy of how you lived your life. You did that bravely, without remorse or resentment. As much as I would like to forget the image of you wasting away in that intensive care unit while a terrible February blizzard raged outside, I cannot do that because to do so would be to forget this final example you set before your family after a whole life of beautiful examples. I will never forget that. You were, Pop, as influential to me in your last days as you had been in my earliest ones some forty-two years ago.

You were, and continue to be, our hero, our exemplar, our “flying fortress” who accomplished in peace far more than any instrument of war.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We love you.
Sam Jr."

This tribute was added by Doris Chandler on 4th May 2015

"Dear Family:

My first class as a Doctor of Ministry student at UPS (then Union-PSCE) was taught by Dr. Roberts and Dr. Zink-Sawyer.  I remember his kindness and love of teaching. His theological point of view and scholarly insights are threads woven into the tapestry of my service to God. I am grateful I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Roberts and learn from him."

This tribute was added by Amanda Montague on 22nd April 2015

"Everything in Sam's life was a reflection of the choices he made.  He wanted different results, so he made different choices.  So glad that one of the choices he made was to be in my life.

I'm eternally grateful for the bond that we shared, laughs and conversations that were many, and he is missed greatly."

This tribute was added by Samuel Roberts, Jr. on 21st April 2015

"Samuel Kelton Roberts, Jr.
22 April 2015

Memorial Service for   Rev. Dr. Samuel K. Roberts, Professor Emeritus of Theology and Ethics
Lake Chapel, Early Center; Union Presbyterian Seminary
1106 Westwood Ave, Richmond, Virginia
Wednesday, April 22, 5:00 p.m.

In 1980, my father, my mother, my brother, and I moved to Richmond, Virginia, from New York City. My father had been offered a position, as Dean of the College, at a historic and prestigious black institution, Virginia Union University. My and Franklin’s parents had relocated to New York from Atlanta a decade before, interrupted by a brief year or so when we lived in Pittsburgh, where my brother was born in 1975. My father had attended Union Theological Seminary, and completed his PhD at Columbia University, and was then teaching graduate courses in New York. My mother had completed her masters degree in New York, and, like my father, also had a not particularly lucrative but nonetheless rewarding position. But this move to Richmond was the proverbial offer my father couldn’t refuse, the opportunity not only to teach but to leave his administrative imprint on an institution whose long history was one of nurturing and cultivating black minds. Besides, there were the boys – me and Franklin – to think about. The public schools in New York weren’t especially excellent, and the private ones were about to get very expensive. Richmond, on the other hand, was nationally known for the high quality of its public school system. Addressing our concerns about leaving all of our friends for a new and foreign land, my father promised us a dog and a big yard to play in. That summer, the Allied Moving Company picked up our things in Manhattan, and we all piled into our Dodge Dart with a shoebox full of eight-track tapes. We rolled down the windows and waved goodbye to our apartment building, merging into traffic up Claremont Avenue, and then onto the Henry Hudson Parkway to the George Washington Bridge. Then the New Jersey Turnpike, followed by Interstate 95. We headed South. We sought our fortune in a new home.

And a better new home we couldn’t have imagined. Until my father’s mother, and, later, my mother’s mother, also moved to Richmond, we had no extended family there. But we were offered more family than we could’ve counted. My brother and I had so many individuals to whom we referred as Aunt or Uncle that we came to believe that both of our parents had grown up in Richmond, and that we’d simply returned to the place of their nascence. We had the front and back yard and the dog, as promised. We had friends and our parents had friends and good colleagues as well. We had community. We had family. We had a church, Providence Park Baptist, pastored by Miles Jones, who baptized both me and my brother. We stayed there until Dad was called to lead Garland Avenue, where we made even more friends and family. And our home became a pastoral home. And I cannot properly or sufficiently emphasize the benefits which come with growing up in a pastoral home -- to come of age in a family where the primary importance was laid on considerations of other people, of one’s flock. Every Day. Day in and day out. It was in that house that I learned the meanings of Christian faith and acts, of duty and discipline, of passionate belief tempered by reflective thought, of generosity, of caring and of caretaking. Given the number of times I was refused a raise in my weekly allowance and my father’s insistent habit of wearing clothes until they were utterly threadbare, I used to think my father was cheap with his money, but I witnessed him give so much of his resources and of himself to so many others that it was in that house that I was confronted with the important difference between stinginess and disciplined frugality as a matter of duty – to whom much is given, much will be expected. My mother is no different. In her entire professional career – which ended just two years ago – she has always helped others, variously as a professor, a college financial aid counselor, and as a counseling psychologist working in juvenile corrections. I was proud of both of them, but I think I also took for granted the value of this upbringing, although that has been less and less the case with every year of my adulthood. I’ve reflected a great deal on that time in the past two months.

Of course, and as you know, my father had the pastoral bug probably from birth. His father, my grandfather, had been a pastor, and when he died my father became the man of the house at age 11. By then, however, he had over the previous nine years developed for himself the role of protector and role model to his younger sister, my Aunt Joyce. From every account I’ve ever heard from friends and family, my father as a boy and as a young man was as dutiful, protective, and loving then as he was for all his life thereafter. It is no wonder, therefore, that he was called to the ministry at age 16. There’s a photo posted to his tribute website, which shows him delivering his first sermon, in August, 1961, at Jerusalem Baptist Church, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, where his own father had been pastor until his death only six years before. I unfortunately never asked my father who took the photo, but it likely was my grandmother, his incredibly proud mother. At that time, more than fifty years ago, there was no one on earth who was more convinced that her son would do good in this world. That he would have a message. That he would bear witness.

But that’s not entirely my point, which is that it was in Richmond where my father developed into the man he was. He was always a good man. From a boy he was nurturing, loving, supportive. But it was in Richmond where from one year to the next he developed those attributes into their most mature practice, cultivating a Life of God which was ever more thoughtful, reflective, and yet bold. A college dean, a professor, a pastor, a church member, a YMCA Board member, a scholar, a mentor, a witness, a husband, a father, a brother, a son, he was each of those things in Richmond, the city which gave him the opportunity and encouragement to be all of these.

Earlier this month, my brother, Franklin, and I spent the Friday and Saturday before Easter attending to our father’s office here at the Seminary. Among the effects he left behind were, of course, thousands of books; thousands of pages of reading, sermon, lecture, workshop, and prayer and meditation notes; program bulletins; hundreds of subject files and dozens of 3.5” floppy disks. All of this was truly impressive to behold, not just the mass of it, but the entirety of its intellectual scope, the reflection of so many interests held by one man. Even after all the conversations we’ve each had with our father, we realized that we could have had so many more about so many other things. But what most impressed us was the amount of correspondence he kept. Certainly not everything, just what he felt was important. Among these were congratulatory letters and printed emails to and from friends all around the world. There were innumerable cards and letters sent in thanks for pastoral or friendly services rendered over the years during times in need. Some files, going back twenty years or more, were devoted to various students. Usually in each was a copy of a student’s thesis, various email printouts, and a thank-you letter to Dear Professor Roberts.

It was ever so clear to us on those two days how much you all meant to him. His colleagues, his friends, his students were tremendous sources of joy and exhilaration for him. He loved his community as much as we loved him.

We are here to memorialize Rev. Dr. Samuel Kelton Roberts. But we would be tragically remiss if we did so without acknowledging the love and support he received here – if we were to regard and remember him out of context. Sam Roberts was a lot of things and one of them was a historian. And he’d be the first to remind us of the importance of historical context. Every soul in this room, and so many more – those who couldn’t join us this evening, those who also have passed on before him – provided that context of love and welcoming friendship. Strangely, had he not met even one of you, in some small or grand way he would not have become the man he was. This fundamental tenet of Christian sisterhood and brotherhood – a tenet found, by the way, in all of the religious faiths which my father studied and admired – is something he appreciated all his life. It is in the interdependency we all share and enjoy – and perhaps only there – where we will find our greatest potential and, ultimately, our salvation. That was his message. That was his witness.

A little over two months ago, there was a moment when my father had to confront his imminent mortality, which likely was to occur in a matter of days. The task of relaying that information to him fell upon Franklin, Rose, and myself. On receiving it, he didn’t give a start. He didn’t hang his head in resignation. He didn’t pray for a personal miracle whose arrival only would have begged any theologian the question of why God would unjustly intervene on behalf of one and not for the man or woman in the next room on the ICU. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t lower his gaze or avert his eyes from ours as he replied, “Well, so be it. I could go right now. I have had a long, good, and full life. And I thank my Lord for it. I could go right now.”

When he spoke of a long, good, and full life, my father wasn’t referring to his material possessions, which he was more likely to give to someone in need than to covet jealously for himself. He wasn’t referring to his numerous accolades, many of which I was completely unaware until cleaning out his office only three weeks ago. No, he was talking about the blessings of the relationships he’d formed, the opportunities to do the good work with others which incidentally brought accolades and – to no chagrin of his own -- often did not. He was talking about his community. His context. That was Samuel Roberts’s message. That, as we all well know, was his witness.

Coincidentally, I today live but two blocks from the apartment building we left 35 years ago when I was seven years old. I wrote this eulogy in my study which has a view of the street on which I began my childhood in an apartment some four decades ago and fourteen stories below. My wife jokes with me that I really didn’t go very far in life, just up a little. And every time I drive home to Richmond, I pass by that building and retrace the route we took in that Dodge Dart with the windows down in the heat of August. Leaving New York, I often wonder what it was like for my parents to uproot their lives and seek their fortune here. Arriving in Richmond some six hours later, I’m always reminded of how glad I am that they did. My father became the man he was because of the context everyone in this room – and so many more – provided him. And because so many of the good things in my life and so many of the good lessons I’ve learned emanated from him and his example, the unpayable debt I owe therefore is much more diffuse than to just one man. I knew and felt his influence every day of my life, as much in his final days as in my formative ones. On Dad’s behalf and mine, I thank all of you for being here and now, but, just as importantly, for being there and then to offer him and us such collegiality, friendship, and love which allowed all of us to thrive happily.

God bless you all, and thank you.

Samuel Kelton Roberts, Jr.
New York City"

This tribute was added by Hoffman Brown on 15th April 2015

"A great man of faith, avid seeker of truth, great citizen and teacher; Dr. Roberts you will be missed!"

This tribute was added by Ronald Stone on 15th April 2015

"Sam and I shared a course on the ethics of world religions together when he was a promising young scholar at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.  He then and throughout his brilliant career always represented his three communities of African-American people and scholars, academia, and Francophiles, with dignity and power.  He was one of Morehouse's and Union Theological Seminary's Best."

This tribute was added by James Kay on 14th April 2015

"Dr. Roberts was one of the first faculty members/administrators I met at Union Theological Seminary in the fall of 1979. Our paths did not cross again until I saw him at the American Theological Society three years ago, where he was a longtime member. He was a scholar and a gentleman, whose warmth and humanity blessed generations of students."

This tribute was added by William Freeman on 14th April 2015

"The Rev. Dr. Samuel K. Roberts was not only a colleague, teacher and advisor, Sam was also one of my best friends in the ministry.  He will be missed by all whose lives he touched."

This tribute was added by keith cornfield on 14th April 2015

"Sam was one of my favorite professors: a man concerned not only about teaching ethics but living ethically and encouraging his students to do so as well. Within this congruence, Sam showed forth compassion and kindness to all that he knew, and had a reverence and honor for God's Word. Sam was a gentleman and scholar, not in platitude, but in truth."

This tribute was added by Echol Nix on 11th April 2015

"I am just now learning of the passing of the Reverend Professor Samuel K. Roberts, Ph. D. He was a tremendous inspiration to me and I will forever cherish his friendship and books sent to me as gifts. "Excellence" is the word I think of the most when I think of him. I am happy that he and I collaborated on a project that will continue his legacy. Dr. Roberts was a good man and I join with his family in remembering and celebrating his unusual life and service."

This tribute was added by ROBERT FULLILOVE on 1st April 2015

"I knew Dr Sam at Union Seminary way back in the 1960s. He was a leader then and an inspiration always. This is a loss for us all, and oh my, how he will be missed."

This tribute was added by Charles Barfoot on 17th March 2015

"I had the privilege of meeting Sam in the fall of 1977.  He was scheduled to be my academic adviser in a PhD program at Union Seminary, New York.  Ultimately. for personal reasons, I ended up In Berkeley.

Sam struck me as a saint in the making with his wise, wonderful, soft spoken manner.  His was a most gentle soul whose influence long lingered with me.  Sam was in excellent company at Union with James Cone, Jim Washington, James Forbes and Jerry Shepherd.  All four bright stars helped put Union in the forefront of theological education, once again.

Over the years I often googled to see what Sam was doing.  Sadly, this time I learned of his passing.  It was a real privilege for me to have been under his care--even for so short a time.  What a wonderful memory, Sam Roberts the scholar and preacher, has left for me and the many others his light and life touched!

My best to his wife and children who will continue his great and
wonderful legacy,

Chas. H. Barfoot"

This tribute was added by Andy Smith on 12th March 2015

"A good friend for many years and fellow American Baptist,  I looked forward to seeing him at the Society of Christian Ethics meetings and catching up on what was happening in his life. I was greatly saddened  to learn of his untimely death today.  I'll miss his great spirit and always remember him as a person who lived life well in addition to his academic contributions."

This tribute was added by Dr. V. McCoy on 5th March 2015

"To the Family-- "Rose, Sam Jr., & Franklin"
I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of your loved one,                                 Dr. Samuel K. Roberts, a brilliant scholar, a trusted friend and an all around lovely person.  It was a honor to work with him at Virginia Union University when he was the Academic Dean.   He will certainly be missed by all, whom he touched...."

This tribute was added by Devin Brown on 5th March 2015

"I wonder what urban and suburban communities would look like if pastors embraced "The Path of Virtue." Thank you Dr. Roberts for inspiring many of us to continue to pursue this path."

This tribute was added by Gardenia Beard on 5th March 2015

"Condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of one of the greatest Homiletics Professors of our time, who both my husband and I had the blessed opportunity to study under. Dr. Roberts was a brilliant and caring person who cared enough about his students to push them beyond their own perceived limitations. I am forever grateful to have served as a Research Assistant for his book "The Courage To Lead" and can hear him asking as he always did whenever I saw him, "Gardenia, are you pursuing your Ph.D yet?" Take comfort in our Lord's words to Dr. Samuel Roberts, "We'll done though good and faithful servant....""

This tribute was added by George Thompson on 4th March 2015

"I am so sorry to hear of my classmate and frat brother's passing.  I'll remember our last meeting in 2011 at homecoming, our first time seeing each other in nearly 50 years.  He was the same Sam that I remember when we were teeneagers entering Morehouse.  My sincere condolences to Sam's wife, sons and entire Roberts family."

This tribute was added by Herbert Holmes on 3rd March 2015

"My cousin, Samuel Kelton “Dutch” Roberts has passed. He was my first cousin once removed.

I first met Sam in Muskogee, Oklahoma in August, 1956. My family was driving back to Atlanta, Georgia after a trip to California. Until then I had no idea of Sam’s existence. I found out he was an extremely cheerful cousin. I was envious of Sam because he had “pogo stick” and I didn’t. I didn’t see Sam again until September, 1962 when we both entered Morehouse College as freshmen. I was again slightly envious of him because he was smarter than me. However, I didn’t feel too bad since there were a lot of guys in our freshmen class smarter than both of us. I got to know Sam well when he stayed with my family during the summer of 1963. Sam had a job in a restaurant at the Atlanta Airport. Sam, myself and two of my brothers lived in the unfinished basement of my family’s new house. We spent many nights telling tall tales and goofing off. On the weekends, Sam spent his time courting his wife to be, Valerie Fisher, and engaging in activities at West Hunter Street Baptist Church.

Sam’s father, Foster Roberts, was the older brother of my paternal grandfather, Dr. Hamilton Mayo Holmes. His father was born James Holmes. I have heard several stories over the years over how he became Foster Roberts. Sam was my father’s first cousin.

That fall, Sam and I joined the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. I vaguely remember us taking a few classes together the next two years. After our junior year, Sam spent a year in France as a Merrill Scholar. I lost contact with him until 1970 when I entered Columbia University as a graduate student in American History. Sam was a doctoral student at the Union Theological Seminary.

I lost a Columbia University Library book. The book was “Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850’s” by Don Fehrenbacher. I remember the book so well because Columbia would not allow me to register and receive my stipend until I paid the book’s replacement cost and the fines totaling 50 dollars. I was down to my last 5 dollars. I was besides myself and had no idea what to do. Luckily, I saw Sam walking on Broadway near 116th Street. I explained my predicament and asked for a loan. He immediately extended me a loan of 50 dollars. I paid the library fines, got my stipend and immediately repaid Sam. I have never forgotten his help.

I also enjoyed the hospitality extended to me by Sam and Valerie in their Union Theological Seminary apartment . I had several Thanksgiving and Christmas meals there. Sam and I shared an intense interest in the history of religion in general and the history of Black religion in particular. We had many discussions on those and many other topics. Sam earned a Ph.D and spent many fruitful years in academia.

I’ve seen Sam only twice since our New York days. About 15 years ago Sam stopped by my mothers house on a visit to Atlanta. I saw him two years ago at a Morehouse College homecoming game. About 10 years ago when I started serious genealogical research on our family Sam provided me by phone valuable information on his side of the family. With his information I was able to locate many others.

I’m saddened to learn of his death. Farewell dear cousin. Rest in Peace."

This tribute was added by Marion Fye on 3rd March 2015

"Sam Roberts, a good fraternity brother."

This tribute was added by Harold Dockins on 3rd March 2015

"To God be the glory for all He has done. I am going to miss shaking hands and visiting with you after church service.  I will always remember our conversation when you gave presentation/sermon at the Men prayer breakfast about how proud you were of your sons and the fact that we are both seniors. My sympathy to your family and Rev Rose Robinson."

This tribute was added by Wilbert Garrett Sr on 3rd March 2015

"After Sam was called to the ministry in our Oklahoma high school,  some of his classmates began to call him "Padre".  Padre is used as a form of address for a priest in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.  I was a family friend to his mother and sister, band member, and later a fraternity brother.  Please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss."

This tribute was added by Edmund Gaither on 3rd March 2015

"I did not really keep up with Sam after we left Morehouse, but I remember him fondly from those days as a great student and a fine person. We were students of Dr. Hume's  I am sorry to hear of his death so soon---we are the same age--and extend my sympathy to his family."

This tribute was added by Vic Maloy on 3rd March 2015

"The board of directors and staff at the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, where Sam served as a trusted board member, send their condolences and gratitude  for Sam's presence among us. It was my honor to be asked by Sam to bring remarks upon his retirement from Union Seminary. In those remarks I thanked Sam for helping us develop a relationship with Jean Emile Nugue and the African Counseling Center, which transformed VIPCare's understanding of itself. Thank you Sam!"

This tribute was added by Cheryl Garrett on 3rd March 2015

"Samuel Roberts' name and memory are woven into our family history.  He was officiant at two close family funerals and the wedding of my daughter Siyani to Franklin, his younger son. He was an intelligent and accomplished man of God who fathered two exceptional sons.  May he rest in peace."

This tribute was added by Jim & Debbie Biggs on 3rd March 2015

"We are thankful to have known Samuel K. Roberts. His plesant personality and smile, we remember."

This tribute was added by Walter Clarke on 3rd March 2015

"Dear Dr. Roberts,

Thank you for all of those nights you let me stay with you and your family as a kid.  I have always enjoyed your wry sense of humor.  There were times as a teenager when I didn't appreciate my own parents, and you said things to make me reconsider them.  I remember your sly smile when amused and a thoughtful scowl when in thought.  

Just like you, I have two sons now.  I hope that I am able to be the example for them that you are for your boys.  I pray that I can lead them to make similarly good decisions and raise them to be just as wise.  I'm sorry that you haven't met them, because I am so very far away.  But rest assured that they shall know you through those that you've left behind.

May God bless your soul.  You are forever missed.

Love Walter"

This tribute was added by Lutrelle Rainey on 2nd March 2015


I was blessed to get and know Dr. Roberts, first at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and became very close to him, when Dr. David Shannon, invited him to serve as the academic dean, at Virginia Union University, where he first served in that position and then with his being on the faculties of: STVUU and UPTS.  

Sam was a good friend and colleague and I would stop by and see and talk with him, when I came into Richmond, Va. where I was serving as the minister of word and sacrament, at the Trinity Presbyterian Church of Dayton, Ohio.  No matter how busy he was, he always took time and say "hello" and talk.  Surely, the PCUSA's title for funeral is:  "A witness to the Resurrection service" and I know that there will be a close place for him, when the Savior come to redeem those, who had first died before His return.  Sleep well, my dean friend and may the blessings of the Lord, whom I serve faithfully be with your family and loved ones.

Lutrelle D. Rainey, Sr., DMin.; MSW"

This tribute was added by Samuel Roberts, Jr. on 2nd March 2015

"Losing my father last Tuesday by far has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. It’s odd to say, but the grief and sadness which I’ve experienced over the past three weeks has been great enough for me to wonder whether or not I had truly reached adulthood before then. I've lived a charmed life until before now. Although living in distant cities, my Dad and I hung out together whenever we could. We both lived long enough to witness our father-son relationship evolve into something more than that, to be a father and son who were good friends. We laughed at the same jokes. We talked about politics, about music. We talked about life. From being a steady provider of food, shelter, clothing, love, and support, he became that reliable provider of continuing older adult wisdom, mentorship, moral support, and understanding. If I wanted insight and advice on something, I only had to call my father. If I wanted to hear a new perspective on something, I only needed to call my father. If I had career problems, I could always call my Dad.

If I ever suspected that I was acting selfishly about something, that I wasn’t being understanding, perhaps even lacking in empathy, I could always count on my father to provide the example of selfless giving and sacrifice. And in those moments, it was a Glory unto God to be shamed and humbled by the example set before me.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t totally one-sided. Once in a very rare while, the occasion might arise in which I was called upon to lift Dad’s spirits, to provide advice and counsel, or just an encouraging word. Even when my brother and I, as children, were the most dependent on him and our mother, I suspect that on at least some occasions – especially when we weren’t acting up, being the young boys that we were – we provided him some sort of inspiration, as all children do to all good fathers. After all, what is a good father other than someone who regards his children as individuals who inspire him to work harder, be better, to set the example? I take no credit for that at all – my brother and I were just two kids, really no different from any other. But the point that I’m trying to make is that we were and are ever so fortunate that he regarded our upbringing as a sacred responsibility, a mission. Had he thought of it as anything less, I cannot guarantee you that we would be who we are today.

In our adult years, my brother, my father, and I became a trio. We were three best friends who all happened to have the same last name. And Franklin and I joked with Dad constantly about how strict he was years ago, bringing us up. It was as though we were laughing at and with a man who once ago had had before him a daunting task and who had surmounted it ably, but comically. Whether it was chores, grades, holding a steady part-time job, service and faithful tithing to the church from our earnings, being a good friend, being a good Christian, or just doing the right thing at all times, he was exacting in his demands. I think even now it’s safe to say the guy was a taskmaster. God knows we called him worse when we were kids and got caught in some sort of hare-brained lie or had failed to execute a task according to instruction. But as much as we may have resented the lesson, we always knew its value because Dad lived it himself. Of all our father’s demands, he reserved the most stringent for himself. Our father, even as he maintained the highest expectations of us, held higher ones for himself as a good Christian and father. He gave and ministered to the poor and downtrodden, he counseled those who thought they’d never see God’s light, he gave of himself in ways both grand and pedestrian. And he trained generations of ministers to do the same, producing a legacy far greater than just his two sons. Even as a boy, and long before we ever knew him, Samuel Roberts, Sr., was a man of service, integrity, and worth. What we never could deny then, and what we surely know now, is that his and our mother’s greatest concern was raising two young black boys to be black men of the same. Wherever we have succeeded in that regard, the debt is largely to him and our mother. And when, one day, I, too, am called to account before the Lord for all of my transgressions, it cannot be said that for any of those would they be to blame. I was blessed with, quite literally, better parents than I would’ve known to ask for. Even in my darkest moments of grief, I cannot complain at my loss today. I had the best father, friend, and example of Christian manhood for which any man might ask. I thank you for that, Pop, and I pray for the wisdom and strength to appreciate all you have given us. What a gift that has been. What a gift. Rest in Peace.

Love ya, Pop. -- Sam Jr."

This tribute was added by Brenda Steppe Cureton on 2nd March 2015

"I will always remember Dr. and Mrs. Roberts for exposing me to classical music when I visited their home.  It was always clear to see the love they shared of The Lord, their family and each other.  As a student at Virginia Union University, I was grateful for the positive impact he had on my life.  I pray God's Holy Spirit will bring great comfort to all who knew and loved him ~ most especially his loving family."

This tribute was added by Raphael Travis on 2nd March 2015

"To Sam, Frank and the rest of the family... Please know that the Travis family has you all in our thoughts and prayers. Looking through the pictures you can see the joy, dignity, and commitment to excellence that you inherited from your father in spades. We know he's very proud of the men you have become. Our deepest condolences. We wish you nothing but great memories of your time together. -Rap, Dnika, Morgan, and Niko"

This tribute was added by Donald Jacobs Jr. on 2nd March 2015

"I will always remember "Dutchie Boy" from our days as children in Muskogee.  We were in the band together and roommates in our freshman year at Morehouse.  I remember when, in high school, he answered the call to the ministry and he even preached a sermon at Manuel when we were seniors.  I will continue praying for the family that God gives you His peace that passes all understanding at this time.  God bless you."

This tribute was added by Esther Washington on 2nd March 2015

"Dear Rose, I am truly sorry for your loss.  I remember meeting Dr. Roberts at our VUU Breakfast event last year - very impressive gentleman.  I pray for your strength during this most difficult period."

This tribute was added by Ruth Jackson on 2nd March 2015

"To his wife Rose from one of her former classmates at VUU;

So sorry about the loss of your husband. My thoughts and prayers are certainly with you. Love and Blessings to you and your family."

This tribute was added by Jerry Russell on 1st March 2015

"My thoughts and my prayers are with the family during the sudden passing of Dr. Roberts. Dr. Roberts was a kind and strong man of God. He cared deeply about the academic success of his students. It was a blessing to have him as a professor and an adviser at Union Presbyterian Seminary. His teachings and influence are truly a part of my life. He was truly a great man of God and will be missed."

This tribute was added by Faith Harris on 1st March 2015

"Farewell to a mentor, Samuel K. Roberts. You will be missed greatly by many, but we are thankful that we experienced your teaching, counsel, and scholarship. Your moral analysis demonstrated your love and profound respect for the academy as well as  humanity, especially African American humanity. I will always cherish your warm friendship, your wry humor, and your unwavering sense of justice. While we were not related by blood, I always felt close to you, in spirit, when you greeted me as, "Baby Sister".  
Rest in peace beloved brother, Sam."

This tribute was added by PAIGE CHARGOIS on 1st March 2015

"As a pastor Rev. Roberts cared about issues with which people struggled around the globe!  As a preacher he proclaimed a Gospel that enriched the life of every believer!  As a professor Dr. Roberts poured into our minds and hearts the raison d’être of our lives:  to be loving, faithful, and ethical people to the glory of God!  Whether spoken or written, Sam’s words were always pushing us towards greater achievement, higher standards, and new levels of excellence!  We will not forget you Dr. Roberts.  Well done my friend, well done."

This tribute was added by Jerome Ross on 1st March 2015

"Dear Family & Loved Ones:

The mercy of the Lord that ministers to your hearts ministers to ours! May the Spirit of the Lordcome and touch you in the midst of your hurt and need. Know that you are covered in His grace! The Lord saves us by His coming—He makes the very sacrifice of Himself whereby we may experience the wholeness of His love!

O how the assignments of Dr. Roberts have moved him from labor in the vineyard to the custody of the Lord’s care! As a pioneer for the Father, he has marched ahead of us for justice and righteousness’ sake that we may enjoy the substance of God’s goodness. Now, as his labors have reached their conclusions and his work has moved toward completion, thank our God that he now rests in reward. Our beloved Brother Sam has stepped ahead of us with his bright and radiant smile, his rich warmth, his commanding witness, and his Spirit-seasoned goodness!

Now, your Dad’s departure marks his dispatch back to the Hands that gave him. He has finished his charge; he has done what the LORD had for him to do. Hark! He is not thrown away! Whenever servants complete the assignments that the Almighty intended for them, whenever creatures perform what is prescribed for them, the Holy Creator removes them from use, from labor to the special place in His Presence, where His Glory supplies the peace that surpasses all understanding!

Let us shed tears together, rejoice together, thank God together. The Presence who is ever here and makes possible our presence here and there now keeps us all together. Now, as the Presence pulls back the shade that we may see through the windows of time and glimpse Eternity, behold, there beyond time yet within His bosom is Dr. Roberts, waving and rejoicing and waiting at the Great Camp Meeting, yea testifying in Zion—“I’ve been washed in the blood of the Crucified One— I’ve been redeemed!”

38 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8RSV

With you in prayer and praise,
Jerome Clayton Ross & The Providence Park Family"

This tribute was added by Adeline Clarke on 1st March 2015

"Fond farewell my dear brother.  I will miss your humor and your friendship.   Godspeed."

This tribute was added by Nancy Trego on 1st March 2015

"What a great and good man, with a loving heart, a soaring intellect, and a willingness to work for good. I was lucky enough to get to know Sam as part of the YMCA of Richmond family. He was a leader locally, regionally, and nationally. But more than that, he made friendships and spread kindness and good cheer wherever he was. I loved being in a simple meeting with Sam. His presence guaranteed that you'd accomplish something and share a laugh or touching moment. My deepest sympathy to all his family and many friends."

This tribute was added by Valerie Fisher on 28th February 2015

"I will always be grateful to Samuel for our two wonderful sons,
Samuel ,Jr.and Franklin and for his part in raising them and expanding their horizons. His commitment to their well-being and happiness has encouraged them to steer a steady course through life."

This tribute was added by Christian Greer on 28th February 2015

"I am very sorry for the family's loss. He will be missed. You are in my thoughts and prayers."

This tribute was added by Ron English on 28th February 2015

"Sam and I pledged Alpha Rho at Morehouse and shared the same major on our mutual pilgrimage to  acknowledged the call to ministry almost simultaneously. He assisted Dr. Abernathy at West Hunter as I assisted Dr. King at Ebenezer. Over the years, I esteemed his intellectual acumen and generous spirit as expressed through multiple modes of ministry as as scholar, preacher, administrator and Servant Leader. His work lives in all so inspired to imitate and emulate his tough mind and tender heart which imbued the work he so nobly advanced. Blessings for consecrated comfort to his wife and family."

This tribute was added by Jonathan L Walton on 27th February 2015

"Professor Samuel K. Roberts was a trailblazer and an important moral voice.  So many of us in the theological academy today would not be able to approach the field of religious ethics through the moral framework of the African American lived experience without the work of Professor Roberts.  We continue to drink from the intellectual wells that he dug.  He was a wonderful scholar.  He was an even better human being.  He will be missed."

This tribute was added by Samuel Adams on 27th February 2015

"Sam Roberts was a dear colleague of mine at the seminary, and I looked up to him as a mentor and friend. He always had a kind word, an insightful comment, or a funny retort. He was a "gentleman and a scholar" and a passionate voice for justice. We will miss him greatly at Union, and my heartfelt prayers go out to his family and dearest friends."

This tribute was added by Amantha Barbee on 27th February 2015

"Dr. Roberts was a kind and gentle man of God. He cared deeply about the academic success of his students.  Mediocrity was not an option and I appreciated him for that. He opened his home and his heart to us at Union and I shall always remember the positive impact he had on my ministry.  Mrs. Rose, I love you. With Gratitude,  Rev. Amantha L Barbee,  Pastor, Statesville Ave Presbyterian Church (USA) Charlotte, NC"

This tribute was added by Dawn DeVries on 27th February 2015

"Sam was a wonderful  colleague for many years.  I will miss his wisdom, his gentle spirit, his kindness, and his firm commitment to justice.  To the family I send wishes for healing and peace.  Your husband and father was a great man."

This tribute was added by Lisa Janes on 27th February 2015

"To the family of Dr. Samuel K. Roberts,

My thoughts and my prayers are with you during the sudden passing of Dr. Roberts. I had the opportunity to occasionally meet or dialogue with  Dr. Roberts as I prepared book and media reserve items at the library for courses at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Dr. Roberts was always so kind and appreciative of everything that I did and I can hear his voice so strong and so affirming as he greeted me while visiting the library.

There are no words to express the sudden passing of a loved one. I experienced the sudden death of my mother last year and we were so close. I find myself holding close not only memories but photographs and even artifacts of the life that continues on now in the spirit world where God and the ancestors dwell. May the peace of God and the love of Christ surround you and comfort you during this difficult time.

With deepest sympathy,

Lisa R. Janes
William Smith Morton Library
Union Presbyterian Seminary (Richmond campus)"

This tribute was added by Lisa Salita on 27th February 2015

"I was blessed to study with Dr. Roberts at UPSem. He wrote and spoke with such eloquence and insight; my lecture notes from his classes were taken as if he were dictating, to try to capture not just the material but his construction of it.  In discussion classes he was enormously gifted at directing and shaping even difficult conversation.  His preaching was insightful, powerful, and grounded so deeply in scripture.  In person, he was quick, discerning, honest, and kind.  In all these, he was motivated by the desire to think and act with justice and mercy for God.  I can't offer higher praise for an educator and pastor. I am grateful for his life and his influence, and offer my condolences to his family."

This tribute was added by loren Mitchell on 27th February 2015

"So thankful to have been taught Ethics by such a kind man. His teachings have blessed my ministry and my life.  My thoughts and prayers are with loved ones at this time."

This tribute was added by William Freeman on 27th February 2015

"I will always remember Dr. Roberts as one of my best friends at Union.  Although Sam came to Union the year I graduated, as President of the Black Caucus, we were instrumental in his hiring as one of the first two Black professors at Union.  Every time I visited the Seminary Sam and I would make it a point to touch base.   As a member of the Union Black Alumni Association, I am so glad we honored Dr. Roberts with a special award at our 2014 Trailblazer Dinner."

This tribute was added by Amanda Montague on 27th February 2015

"To The Family:

I cannot begin to tell you how I felt when I received the news that Sam had passed away.  We kept in touch after his retirement, but had not talked to him since January. I worked with him at the seminary for the years that he's been here, and we had become very close.  We'd sit and talk about anything and everything, and I can just see that smile now that he always had.  How happy he was, and how happy I will be after this because of what he meant to me, and always mean to me.  

Forever in my heart, he will remain.  Blessings,"

This tribute was added by Sherry Butler on 27th February 2015

"To Chrissie and Sam,
My heart and prayers are with you. While I did know Reverend Dr. Roberts, I can sense and experience his fine character and earnest spirit through Chrissie and Sam. Having lost my own father 5 years ago, I deeply understand the loss. Still, no one can experience your pain.  
My prayer is that you will allow your father's spirit to be a light to the world through your own Life's work & journey.  If there is anything I can do, please don't hesitate to let me know.  God Bless and keep you, both.  Love, Aunt Sherry"

This tribute was added by Richard Timmons on 26th February 2015

"Farewell, dear Brother, Transcendent art thou....Thy good name we"ll revere!"

This tribute was added by Richard Timmons on 26th February 2015

"Farewell, dear Brother, Transcendent art thou....Thy good name we"ll revere!"

This tribute was added by michael holmes on 26th February 2015

"My beloved cousin Sam was a man of great principles that I looked up to. As a lifelong sinner and indulger in doing for self and pleasure it was great to have a model of someone who was so thoughtful. His example will forever be with me and hopefully I will see him again in the after life."

This tribute was added by Gloria Greer on 26th February 2015

"Our beloved Pop Roberts will remain in our memory forever."

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