Lester Roloff

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Lester Leo Roloff
Born(1914-06-28)June 28, 1914
Dawson, Navaroo County
Texas, USA
DiedNovember 2, 1982(1982-11-02) (agedĀ 68)
Near Normangee, Texas
ResidenceCorpus Christi, Texas
Alma mater

Baylor University

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
OccupationIndependent Baptist clergyman
 
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Lester Leo Roloff
Born(1914-06-28)June 28, 1914
Dawson, Navaroo County
Texas, USA
DiedNovember 2, 1982(1982-11-02) (agedĀ 68)
Near Normangee, Texas
ResidenceCorpus Christi, Texas
Alma mater

Baylor University

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
OccupationIndependent Baptist clergyman

Lester Leo Roloff (June 28, 1914 - November 2, 1982) was an American fundamental Independent Baptist preacher and the founder of teen homes across the American South.

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Early ministry

Born in Dawson in Navarro County in east centralTexas of German descent, Roloff began preaching at the age of eighteen. He attended[Fort Worth, Texas|Fort Worth]]. Roloff is reported to have brought his dairy cow with him to raiin Corpus Christi in 1944 that Roloff began his radio show, The Family Altar.

Ministry expands

In 1950, Roloff was called upon to fill in as preacher at a series of revival meetings in Corpus Christi after the scheduled speaker, B. B. Crim died. The enthusiastic reaction to Roloff's preaching led him to resign his pastorate and pursue full-time evangelism. Roloff's Evangelistic Enterprise was hence incorporated the following year.

Roloff preached stridently against communism, television, alcohol, tobacco, pork,[citation needed] and psychology. His strong stands led to separation from most of his Southern Baptist brethren. In 1954, Roloff returned to pastoral ministry by the establishment of the Alameda Street Baptist Church in Corpus Christi.

The Roloff Homes

Separated from mainline Southern Baptists because of his standards, Roloff began actively ministering to alcoholic and homeless men. His first mission house was established in Corpus Christi in 1954. Additional children's homes were eventually added throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia. The first Roloff home for females, Rebekah Home for Girls, was established in 1968, which brought in young girls who were addicted to drugs, involved in prostitution, serving jail time, kicked out of their homes, or in need of refuge.

The only literature permitted to those living in the Roloff homes was the King James Version of the Bible. Television was forbidden, and only one hour of radio per day was permitted to listen to Roloff's radio sermons. Daily church attendance was mandatory; each Roloff home had its own church and pastor on the grounds. Other policies, in accordance to the state, included windows being locked and alarm systems in order to prevent any truancy or escape. Contact with the outside world was denied except for monitored phone calls with parents. In addition, each dorm room had an intercom and loudspeaker.

Some of the homes were temporarily closed in 1973 because Roloff refused on church-state issues to license the home through the state government. The institutions re-opened in 1974 after Roloff successfully appealed to the Texas Supreme Court which ruled in Roloff's favor that it was unconstitutional to close the homes down. Roloff at one point transferred ownership of the homes from Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises to his church, the People's Baptist Church and thus compelled the state to sue the "new" owners while he kept the homes running. The Attorney General refiled the case and secured an injunction that tried to shut down the ministry. In 1975, the state passed laws that required the licensing of youth homes. Roloff was arrested twice for refusing to comply with this law.

In 1979, in an incident known as the "Christian Alamo" Roloff urged churches and pastors across America who supported the Roloff ministry to come to Corpus Christi and form a human chain around the church to prevent the Texas Department of Human Resources from removing children from the homes. Legal battles with the State of Texas continued, and the homes were closed and re-opened. The Texas homes were closed again in 2001.

Death

Roloff had always had a fascination with flight. He purchased his first airplane in 1954 and used it to travel between his various speaking engagements throughout the country. On November 2, 1982, the same day that the Democrat Mark Wells White, the outgoing attorney general, unseated Republican Governor Bill Clements, Roloff's plane crashed during a storm outside Normangee, Texas. Roloff and a ladies' singing trio from the home for adult women were killed. White had vowed if elected governor to shut down Roloff's homes. The wreckage of the crashed airplane is the centerpiece of Roloff Park at Hyles-Anderson College, a Bible College in Crown Point, Indiana, partly named for the pastor Jack Hyles.

The Family Altar

Roloff's show continues on the radio today with recordings of his sermons aired in both 15 and 30-minute programs. Roloff was posthumously inducted in 1993 into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame. After breaking with the Southern Baptist Convention in 1956 over a speech criticizing denominationalism, Roloff was branded as a King James Only Independent Baptist.

Roloff also incorporated singing into his sermons, and would occasionally break into impromptu singing of hymns and/or leading his choir to sing along. The Family Altar program begins and ends with a recording of Roloff singing "When Jesus Comes (One Sat Alone Beside the Highway)" accompanied only by organ.

Roloff's legacy

Roloff is cited as a major influence on both the Christian fundamentalist homeschooling and youth movements. His final recorded sermon was preached at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga and is entitled "Hills that Help". It is regarded as a classic by his supporters. Perhaps his most well-known sermon was "Dr. Law and Dr. Grace."

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