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Rogers remembered as strong leader, stalwart in area of racial relations


LOUISVILLE—Longtime Kentucky Baptist Convention staffer William H. "Bill" Rogers was remembered Jan. 3 as stalwart in the area of racial relations and as a mild-mannered, yet strong, Christian leader.

Rogers died on Christmas Day at 95.

Rogers served as pastor of Melbourne Heights Baptist Church in Louisville. He joined the KBC staff in 1971 and served as director of inter-racial relations and later as director of the minister/church support division.

Bill Rogers

After his retirement, he continued as a pastoral consultant on the KBC's Leadership Development Team and served as interim pastor for many Kentucky churches and as a staff member at Cedar Creek Baptist Church. He was also the founding pastor of Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green, an influential congregation within the KBC.

"He had unique counselor-type skills in working with ministers and church leaders," said KBC church financial benefits consultant Don Spencer, who reported to Rogers when he started in his current role on the KBC staff. "Over the years, many have expressed appreciation that they could talk to Bill about anything and he was never judgmental, always supportive."

Through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Rogers was on the cutting edge in leading Kentucky Baptists in racial reconciliation.

"Evidence of his respect in this area was the fact that about a dozen pastors of predominantly black churches were present for his funeral," Spencer said. "One of them gave a eulogy and another, who couldn't be there, sent a very strong letter of support and appreciation."

"He was a strong leader among Kentucky Baptists but in a very mild mannered, behind the scenes way," Spencer added. "He loved people and had a way of making them feel supported and loved even when they were going through rough times. His role as a supervisor was always characterized by being supportive and encouraging." 

Rogers was born in Logan County on April 10, 1923, the son of Harriet Lawson and William H. Rogers. He married Martha Louise McPherson on Jan. 15, 1944.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 1944, reaching the rank of 1st lieutenant and serving with occupation forces in Japan. After working in home construction for several years, he was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1949 and resumed his college education.

While studying at Western Kentucky College, he was pastor at Salem Baptist Church in Logansport, then in 1954 moved to Eastwood Baptist as its founding pastor. In 1961 he became pastor at Melbourne Heights and completed his studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville in 1964.

Bill was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, his parents and two sisters. Surviving are his sons Harris Rogers of Redwood City, Calif.; Ron Rogers of Bowling Green; daughters Brenda Meyer of Alpharetta Ga.; Carol Leist of Louisville; six grandsons, and three great grandsons. (KT)

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