Dr. Benjamin W. Robertson, Sr.
April 6, 1931 – February 20, 2011
When Benjamin W. Robertson, Sr. began preaching at Cedar Street Baptist Church in 1955, the church in Richmond’s Union Hill neighborhood had approximately 200 members.
The minister originally from Roanoke was only 24, but he’d already been preaching seven years. Led by his visionary foresight and charisma, Cedar Street eventually grew to become the largest church in the City of Richmond with a congregation of 2000 – one of the largest churches in Virginia. Though Dr. Robertson retired in 2007, he still served as Pastor Emeritus. With his passing on February 20, 2011, he will be profoundly missed and remembered by friends and the congregation he served for 52 years.
“Our congregation has suffered a great loss right now with his passing,” said Senior Pastor, Dr. Anthony Michael Chandler. “I’m his successor so I’m honored to be standing on his shoulders. He was a charismatic leader. He was definitely one of the first mega-church pastors in the state of Virginia and one of the first mega-church pastors of his era. He was the first to build one of the largest sanctuaries in the City of Richmond.”
In 1961, Dr. Robertson joined a small group of delegates who left the National Baptist Convention to establish the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC) in order to support the Civil Rights Movement. The new Christian movement would impact political policy as well as theological tenets.
Reverend Dr. Robertson was the founder of the Richmond Virginia Seminary and the National Christian Education Convention and served as President of Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, where he earned both his Master and Doctor of Divinity. The Virginia State Baptist Convention Inc. honored Dr. Robertson with its first Lifetime Achievement Award. He appeared in the 1996 documentary, A Perfect Candidate. On the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education, then-President George W. Bush appointed Rev. Dr. Robertson to the Anniversary Committee. He was the only minister appointed to the select group.
Since his retirement, Dr. Robertson supported Dr. Michael Anthony Chandler to lead Cedar Street. “As a young pastor, he has been the forerunner of my ministry,” Dr. Chandler says. “He was always willing to offer advice and support to the ministry.”
Rev. Dr. Robertson is survived by his beloved wife of nearly 55 years, Dolores Wallace Robertson, whom he affectionately called “Sugar”. A celebration of his life was held last Sunday. The funeral was held Monday, February 28 at the Church to which Dr. Robertson dedicated much of his life. Cedar Street Baptist Church of God, 2301 Cedar St. Richmond