Dr. Robert G. Witty was born on Oct. 6, 1906, in Glasgow, Kentucky. October 8, 2006, his church, Mandarin Baptist in Jacksonville, celebrated his 100th birthday with a special Sunday worship service.
Witty, in 1962, was the founder of Luther Rice Seminary in Jacksonville, Fla., which relocated in 1991 to Lithonia, Ga., and last year became Luther Rice University. Witty, who was in the ministry for 86 years, served as Luther Rice Seminary’s president from 1968-82 and chancellor until 1987. At the time of the seminary’s founding, Witty was pastor of Jacksonville’s Central Baptist Church, which he led from 1943-70.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and president of the SBC Council of Seminary Presidents, described Witty as “a great Christian leader, a passionate Christian educator and one of the great innovative minds of his generation…His vision of taking educational programs to the people set the pattern for the radical expansion of educational opportunity in the United States. Long before the secular world had caught sight of this vision, Dr. Witty was already doing it.”
Tom Elliff, past president of the SBC International Mission Board and a former SBC president, said Witty, known as “Doc” to friends and colleagues, “though in his 90s, continued travelling, speaking, teaching, hosting a website and encouraging others in the faith…Witty was the consummate soul-winner whose pockets brimmed with Gospel tracts. His stated goal in life was to leave each person with whom he came in contact ‘with eternity in view.'”
In addition to serving as a pastor in Jacksonville, Witty also led churches in St. Petersburg and Davenport, Fla. He also authored numerous books, including Power for the Church, Help Yourself to Happiness, The Bible: Fact or Fiction, and Church Visitation, Theory and Practice. With Elliff, he coauthored In Their Own Words, a book of testimonies of men and women of faith.
In addition to earning a Ph.D. from the University of Florida and a doctor of theology degree from Burton Seminary in Vermont, Witty also had earned degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary, Asbury Theological Seminary, Willamette University, and Campbell School of Theology.
His wife Katherine died in 1994 after 55 years of marriage. Robert and Katherine have three sons, Robert Witty, Daniel Witty, and Robert Hoover, and three daughters, Mary Love Spann, Ann Weisel and Edith Krblick; eight grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.