Pastors' Memoirs

Robert M. Blackburn, 1919-2002

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Robert M. Blackburn, 82, died on Sunday, March 17, 2002, in Jacksonville, Florida. He was born in Bartow, Florida, graduated from Orlando Florida High School, Florida Southern College, and Candler School of Theology at Emory University and was ordained a Methodist minister in 1943. He retired as bishop of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1988. He served the following pastorates in the Florida Conference: Boca Grande (1943-44); U.S. Army Chaplain with the 16th Armored Division in Europe (1944-46); First Methodist, Orlando, as associate pastor (1946-49); Mount Dora (1949-53); Trinity, Deland (1953-60); First Methodist, Jacksonville (1960-68); First Methodist, Orlando, senior pastor (1968-72). In 1972, he was elected a bishop in the United Methodist Church and served as Bishop of the North Carolina Conference (1972-80) and then for eight years in the Virginia Conference (1980-88). Bishop Blackburn received honorary doctorate degrees from Florida Southern College, LaGrange College, North Carolina Wesleyan College and Shenandoah University. He was a member of Who’s Who in America. He served on the Boards of Trustees of the following: Emory University, Florida Southern College, North Carolina Wesleyan College, Methodist College in North Carolina, Greensboro College, Louisburg College, Virginia Wesleyan College, Randolph-Macon College, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Ferrum College, Shenandoah University and Randolph-Macon Academy.

He was married in 1943 to Mary Jeanne Everett of Atlanta, Georgia, who was the mother of his three children: Jeanne Marie Cox (Ray) of Rome, Georgia; Robert, Jr. (Sarah) of Asheville, North Carolina; and Frances Blackburn Harwood (John) of Silver Spring, Maryland. After the death of his first wife, he married Jewell Fannin Haddock in 1978. Jewell was the widow of Judge L. Page Haddock and the mother of Nancy Haddock Price (John) of Tequesta, Florida; Judge Lawrence Page Haddock, Jr. (Christy), Jacksonville, Florida; and Elizabeth H. Ruvo (Richard), Port St. Lucie, Florida. He is also survived by eight grandchildren, five step-grandchildren, and one step-great-grandson.

Services were held at First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville where he had served for eight years and returned to in retirement. The service was led by Bishop Timothy Whitaker, Bishop Hasbrouck Hughes, Bishop Lloyd Knox, and Dr. Gene Zimmerman. Words of remembrance were given by Bishop Kern Eutsler, Bishop Joseph Yeakel, and a written statement was read from Bishop Earl Hunt. Bishops Charlene Kammerer, Carl Sanders, Bevel Jones, and Thomas Stockton were present.

Bishop Blackburn is remembered for his abiding personal integrity and deep love and loyalty to the United Methodist Church. "Bishop Blackburn gained our respect and appreciation for the selfless way he gave himself to his work," said Dr. F. Douglas Dillard, a retired Virginia Conference clergy member, who was a close associate of the bishop. "The mission of the church was always placed before his own comfort, and he faithfully made decisions — sometimes difficult and sometimes routine — with what he thought would be in the best interest of the church," Dillard continued. "Congregational revitalization, the development of new congregations and excellence in ministry marked his episcopal leadership."

 

 

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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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