Hall of Fame – Bro. Robert T. Church, Sr.

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Bro. Robert Thomas Church, Sr. -FORT VALLEY – Bro. Robert Thomas Church, Sr., 99, passed away Wednesday, December 31, 2008. -Inspired by the words of Dr. George Washington Carver: “It is simply service that measures success,” the life of Robert Thomas Church, Sr. has been one of long service to mankind. He was born in Athens, Georgia on September 26, 1909, to sharecropper parents, and his many achievements were indicative of his very strong faith, character, intelligence and fortitude.

In 1934, Bro. Church earned a B.S. in Agriculture Education from Hampton Institute in Virginia and M.S. in 1958 from Tuskegee University. As a graduate of Hampton and Tuskegee, he incorporated the principals of “Education for Life” and “Learning by Doing” as teacher and principal (1934-1938) and as the first black county agricultural extension agent (1938-1969) in Peach County, Georgia at Fort Valley State University. In his work with rural Blacks, Bro. Church was able to improve the quality of life for poor farmers, teaching them the results of agricultural research in order to increase production. -Bro. Church spearheaded a very successful Ham and Egg Show from 1949-1966, allowing Black farmers to showcase prize hams and eggs in annual competition. He promoted efficiency, character, and service to 4-H members, agricultural extension workers and farmers. He worked against racism by championing Black 4-H clubs in successful competitions, forcing equal access to white 4-H camps and funding, and seeking equal salaries for Black county agents.

Bro. Church was initiated into Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. on June 5, 1937 by Psi Omega chapter in Augusta Georgia. Bro. Church was appointed by the office of the 7th District Representative as the first Georgia State Representative. Serving from 1963-1964. Some highlights of Bro. Church’s tenure included:

  • Appointed the first State of Georgia Regional Representatives.
  • Instrumental in the Chartering of numerous Graduate and Undergraduate Chapters.
    Implemented the first Scholarship Sweetheart Ball fundraiser
  • Conducted Chapter Initiations and Investigations. DISTRICT / INTERNATIONAL IMPACT:
  • Created and hosted the first 7th District Meeting. The meeting was held in Fort Valley, Georgia. The district at that time consisted of Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
  • Introduced the concept of a fund raiser costume dance to chapters. This dance later was named the Omega Mardi Gras

Bro. Church’s public service work was extensive. He served on the Fort Valley City Council from 1974-1982, spearheading the city’s certification, paving of streets and providing sidewalks. For 25 years he was a board member (chairman for 15 years) for the family and Children Services Department at local and state levels. He helped Black farmers apply for loans and social security, and he obtained a grant to upgrade substandard housing in Peach County. He pushed for Black Members on City and County Commissions and the Utilities Board. He was active in United Way campaigns. His remarkable journey earned him the national History Makers Award and his life documented on video and aired in 2003. He also received the George Washington Carver Public Service Hall of Fame Award in 2003. –

Bro. Church was a devout family man; in 1938 he was united in holy matrimony to Ruby Summers and to this union two children were born. A daughter, Annette Church Engram and son, Robert (Felecia) T. Church, Jr., both of Atlanta, GA; he was preceded in death by his wife, Ruby S. Church in 1993.

Bro. Church always stated that he had sought to live his life more by example than by precept. He received awards from every group he served. It is no wonder that he was loved by all who knew him.