As I reflect on almost 32 years of denominational journalism I have had several people who mentored me along the way, helping me to become a better writer, editor and overall journalist.
For the most part, all my mentors were people I either worked for directly or worked with closely, there is one exception to that list. I never had the privilege of working directly with or for John Roberts, who served as editor of the Baptist Courier in South Carolina for 30 years.
While in Iowa last week, working on stories about the Tennessee/Iowa Baptist partnership, I learned that Dr. Roberts died Aug. 15 at the age of 85.
Though I never worked for him, he perhaps had as much a role in helping me advance in my career as anyone else. He took an interest in a green, fresh-out-of-college journalism major who went to work at North Greenville College in Tigerville, S.C., as their news writer.
I will never forget the day I received a phone call from someone at Baptist College at Charleston (now Charleston Southern University). He wanted to interview me for a position and he told me I was strongly recommended for the job by John Roberts. The job basically was mine. I just had to accept.
In addition, the first story I ever had published with my byline in a state paper came while he was editor of the Courier.
His interest in me never stopped. He recommended me for other positions through the years, including the associate editor position for the B&R when it opened up 24 years ago. Ironically, I was hired by then editor Fletcher Allen, another one of Dr. Roberts’ “boys.”
John Roberts helped set high standards for denominational journalism and Baptist state papers. Along the way, he tried to pass his knowledge and experience on to the next generation of journalists.
I was just one of many he helped along the way. Others included Allen, current Courier Editor Don Kirkland and Western Recorder (Ky.) Editor Todd Deaton.
I am grateful for the role John Roberts played in my career. He will be missed.