By Nancy R. Elliott The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON – You’ll find Dr. Thomas J. Robinson in his office every morning, where he starts off with The Herald Bulletin on his desk. Although he ran track back in the day, today he gets a little oxygen assist for chronic bronchitis that gets him through his busy days. The 80-year old preacher oversees the flock at the non-denominational Mt. Pilgrim Church in Anderson, a responsibility he’s carried for 38 years.
“I’ve been a voice for the poor – the least, the last and the lost,” said Robinson. “It is a real challenge.”
About 150 people come to Mt. Pilgrim each Sunday, a diverse congregation that fits with Robinson’s heart to break down the barriers of prejudice.
Robinson originally grew up in Chicago. He remembers his four white buddies with whom he used to go fishing up in Wisconsin.
One time, he and his friends were on their way back to Chicago and stopped to eat at a roadside diner. The waitress finally approached their table. Invoking a racial slur, she informed the group that the restaurant didn’t serve n----s.
Robinson’s buddy replied, “I don’t eat ‘em either. I just want a hamburger.” With that, the young men up and left.
Out of high school, Robinson snagged a scholarship from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and headed off to Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. With a bachelor’s degree in administration, he headed back to Chicago where he paid $50 to get a job washing cars. Eventually, however, Robinson put his education and talents to use, and wound up in business for himself, owning three gas stations. Life was good, until it all fell apart, and Robinson went broke.
“My wife was pregnant with our son,” said Robinson. “I was ready to commit suicide…. I was going to shoot myself.” He brought a .38 police special and brand new bullets. As he drove and came up to a stop sign, he prayed.
“Well, Lord, I’m going to do it tonight. I want you to know so you take care of my family. I know they’re suffering because of me.” Then, however, Robinson heard a response. “I’m going to take care of you, too.” The voice also informed Robinson to stop being so cocky.
Not long after, Robinson related, “The Lord came up with this preaching idea.” Robinson preached his first sermon in early 1975, on Luke 4:18. “I have been anointed to preach the gospel to the poor.”
Robinson married his wife Eva in 1994. He had four children with his previous wife. He lost his daughter in 2002. His three sons are all preachers – one in Nevada, and two in Florida.
“The big thing is that you know Jesus,” said Robinson.
Mt. Pilgrim Church is located at 615 Henry St. in Anderson. Look for it online at www.mtpilgrimchurch.com or contact the church at 643-7952. Sunday’s high energy worship service starts at 11 a.m.
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