Shelton, Rev. Dr. Robert McElroy
October 9, 1934 - March 4, 2018
On March 4, 2018, Reverend Dr. Robert McElroy Shelton died in Dallas, Texas, of complications from Alzheimer’s. He is survived by his wife, Rev. Dr. Fran Shelton, daughter, Tammy Mackesey (Rich), son, Jim (Diane), and Fran’s children Omi Ford (Robert) and Sarah Coward (Ken). Also, Bob’s sister Helen Knight lives in Memphis, TN. His first wife, Barbara, died in 1980. The legacy of his love, his most valuable gift, extends many generations to Natalie Borg (Diane and Jim), Isabella and Trey (Omi and Robert), Kaya and Stax (Ken and Sarah), and his many nieces and nephews to whom he was often known as “Uncle Gunner.” This love will, no doubt, then be passed on to their children, as well. And on, and on….
Bob was born in Karnak, IL,on October 9, 1934, to Reverend Clarence Roy and Mary Shelton. He was the youngest of nine children and was preceded in death by: Juanita, June, Mary Ruth, James, Charles, Wayne, and Kathryn. He grew up in Southern Illinois and East Tennessee, and graduated from Maryville College in 1955, where he lettered in three sports and was inducted into the Maryville College Sports Hall of Fame. Bob also earned degrees from Memphis Theological Seminary (B.D.), and a Th.M. and Ph. D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, an experience that had a far-reaching impact on the rest of his life. He was the first Cumberland Presbyterian, and as he would say “the first East Tennessee hillbilly,” to attend Princeton.
As a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, Bob served churches in New Jersey and Tennessee, as well as fulfilling meaningful interims in Shreveport, Dallas, and San Antonio. He was a dynamic preacher who captivated congregations and left a lasting impression on all within earshot. Bob’s teaching career began at Memphis Theological Seminary, where he later served on the Board of Trustees.After Memphis, he began a long career in 1971 as a professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary(APTS). As a crowning teaching achievement, he was honored as the first holder of the Jean Brown Chair of Homiletics and Liturgics. Additionally, Bob served as Dean of APTS, and in 1997was named 8th president of that institution, a position he held through 2002. In 1993, Bob was elected Moderator of the 163rd General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Bob had many passions, among them theology, sports, music of all types (especially the songs of Willie Nelson), literature, and poetry. In fact, along with APTS colleague Ross Dunn, he created the program “Theology and Willie Nelson,” which was presented all over the country for decades. Bob’s love for life was spread throughout the secular and religious world. He saw as much of God’s beauty and grace in a well-turned Cub double play from Kessinger-to-Beckert-to-Banks, as in a gloriously sung hymn or a meaningful sermon.
As long as we can remember Bob and tell a story about him that brings a smile to our faces or reveals his wisdom, his spirit will be with us forever. He often said that “God is love,” and the love Bob gave us all will endure. A part of each of us has died with Bob, but now his love, also in each of us, will rise again.
A service of Witness to the Resurrection will be held at First Presbyterian Church, Dallas, TX, on March 7 at 2 p.m. The Rev. Dr. R. Kenneth Peters and The Rev. Rebecca Chancellor-Sicks will officiate.
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