Lester Roloff’s Obituary – Jack Patterson Update

I have come across a pile of recent – as in the last 10 years recent about Lester Roloff.  I have done a lot of reading about this granddaddy of the Christian Child Containment movement but had never come across his obituary.  So, thought I would share it here.

In the next several days, I am going to be parsing out information from the documents newly discovered and post it here.  And, below the obituary, a quick update from Jack Patterson’s personal website.

The New York Times November 4, 1982,
Thursday, Late City Final Edition

Lester Roloff, killed in a small-plane crash in Texas Tuesday, was a radio evangelist who fought an eight-year battle with the State of Texas over his management of homes for troubled teen-agers.

Mr. Roloff, who was 68 years old and based his operations at the People’s Church of Corpus Christi, was on his way to Missouri to deliver a sermon when he and four others died when the plane he was piloting crashed near Normangee.  His Texas church compound also contains the Rebekah Home for Girls, which came to national attention in 1979 when there was a clash between Mr. Roloff’s adherents and state officials who tried to shut the home amid reports of overly harsh discipline and other mistreatment.

Mr. Roloff was also a power in Texas politics. He said he was instrumental in helping William Clements win an 18,000-vote margin in the Governor’s race in 1978. Mr. Roloff was one of the fundamentalist preachers who do not shy from giving political advice, and he did so in daily half-hour broadcasts heard on 180 radio stations.  The authorities in Texas said Mr. Roloff, who often piloted one of the three small planes owned by Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises, died when his Cessna 210 plunged into a field. The evangelist, known as Brother Roloff, was to have preached in Roosterville, Mo.

Mr. Roloff started out as an ordained Baptist minister but later shunned affiliation with any denomination. He founded the Rebekah Home in 1967 on the grounds of his church as one of a number of homes for boys and girls and adult drug addicts and alcoholics.  The homes, financed by donations, formed the basis of Roloff Enterprises, which enjoyed exemption from taxes as religious work. A few years ago, he put the annual receipts at $2.5 million.  Mr. Roloff’s troubles with the Texas authorities began in 1973 over three homes housing 180 girls and 100 boys. It was charged that teenagers, most of them sent away by parents, were being beaten and underfed.

Charges Focus on One Home

Most of the accusations centered on the Rebekah Home, where, it was charged, girls were fed inadequately and punished with denial of meals, lashings and solitary confinement.  Mr. Roloff, who consistently denied most of the charges, conceded that girls had been paddled and whipped for misbehavior. He asserted that such discipline was meant to save their souls. ”My old daddy spanked me, and some of these girls have to be spanked, too,” he said.  State officials insisted that he obtain licenses for his homes and observe state standards. Mr. Roloff countered that the licenses were ”Communistic” and violated religious freedom.  After years of wrangling, Mr. Roloff lost his final appeal to the Supreme Court in 1978 and, in June 1979, state officials, armed with court orders and backed by troopers, moved in to shut the Rebekah Home.

Human Barrier Around Church

Thousands of supporters, led by ministers from around the country, formed a barrier around the People’s Church, with 200 children inside. Governor Clements ordered officials to avoid physical violence, and after a week the issue was resolved.  Mr. Roloff temporarily closed the three homes. He also removed them from the structure of Roloff Enterprises and placed them under the aegis of his People’s Church, causing a state court to rule in 1981 that they could operate without a license.

A Roloff spokesman, Dave Walkden, said that Mr. Roloff had been flying planes for 25 years. The Texas authorities said the plane disappeared from the radar screen shortly after 10 A.M. 110 miles north of Houston, and that there was no indication of trouble, although some storms were reported. The other victims were identified as Elaine Wingert, 30, a friend of Mr. Roloff; and three residents of the Jubilee Home for Ladies, one of the church-affiliated homes, Susan Lynn Smith, 28, Cheryl Palmer, 24, and Enola Slade, 25.  Mr. Roloff is survived by his wife, Marie, and two daughters.  Copyright 1982 The New York Times Company.

Jack Patterson Update

Since his Reclamation Ranch men’s home was shut down in Alabama in 2009, Patterson has been looking for a place to once again set up shop.  So far, Patterson has had homes in Indiana, Washington and Alabama.  He is now moving back to Detroit where he grew up.

From Patterson’s personal website:

“At the time of this writing I am in Alabama with five men in the program. We are doing alot of clean-up work to get the place ready to sell. As mentioned in the last prayer letter we are planning on moving the ministry to Detroit sometime this year.”  and,  “…so you can see we are busy and having lots of fun. Praise the Lord for the young men in our program, they are “sold out” and ready to serve the Lord with their lives. It is never a sacrifice but a great privilidge to work with these young men.”

I have had contact with “Bro. Jack” in the past via email. He absolutely rejected the charge that he has ever laid a hand on a teen in his care and that the charges brought by Blount County were trumped up.  I have made several attempts to reconnect with him since the new news of Reclamation Ranch moving to Detroit.  He hasn’t gotten back to me, however, Jack appears to like to talk, so, hopefully I will have an update on that soon.


14 thoughts on “Lester Roloff’s Obituary – Jack Patterson Update

    1. akopsa says:

      Thank you for this – I actually did not know it was in Tennessee. I know he has/had a girls home in Alabama. I will look into it – thanks again! Andy

  1. Reader says:

    All of the charges against Dr. Patterson were dropped in exchange for him pleading guilty to some kind of verbal harassment charge. It had a fine with it, some low figure.

    The details are on his website.

  2. Lynn says:

    I appreciate your efforts to keep up with Patterson and also help people see what kind of guy Roloff was. Anyway, your second email-the link won’t work.

  3. T. Herrington says:

    You morons don’t have a clue who Lester Roloff was. I knew him personally and he was not a child abuser, he was a man of God who served God faithfully. I pity you liberals who attack a man who cannot defend himself.

    1. Theodore Christopher Carson Jr. says:

      I was a 6 yr old boy listening to Bro. Roloff preach when I was convinced that I needed to name Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I went down the 2nd floor steps to the main floor of Second Baptist Church and told Bro. Roloff I knew I needed to be saved. He embraced me and in making sure I knew what I was doing I made very clear to him I knew. My dad (Ted Carson deceased) was thrilled after the morning service was over that I believe it was the only time I ever saw a tear in my dads eye. My dad operated a large insurance agency and owned And operated a 300 acre black soil ranch in which he usually had about 600- 700 black angus cattle grazing. Even though the ranch was a sideline from his ordinary business he had built, he never forgot to keep the “Roloff” homes deep in beef for the boys and girls that Bro. Roloff was responsible for. Bro. Roloff took me up flying several times and he would have me flying it “ie” taking off, landing, etc. I was hooked on flying and that background of bonding with flying was instrumental in my being involved in flying during the Viet Nam war a few years later. After my military service was over I returned to Corpus Christi and worked for a few years with another Roloff Friend (Alfred Edge Realtors in Corpus Christi). The edginess of my civilian return from the US Army Artillery and Air Defense in which there was a high rate of mortality and/or emotional trauma which eventually cost me the marriage of my best friend in life. I had to sign US Army papers that left and still do operate in effect so that I have no personal friend to share some of the experiences I sustained while in service. The closest thing I could allude to would be the July 1967″ US News and World Report “. In that article , with pictures, illustrated that the US Army was slack in regarding the mental damage it (Army Officer Candidate for Artillery and Air Defense) was doing to many of its graduates, so much so that there were several suicides. Without indicting myself I can say that the cause of the emotional trauma of many officer candidates has left me with scars that cause me to question why some of these young man who qualified and accepted the Officer Candidate School at Ft. Sill during the 1960s had to stop this traumatic experience only by suicide. I may still get into trouble in sharing this, but the price of your freedom (and mine) to expose troublesome and archaic steps of “making a soldier”. is required. NOW with our great country we are about to see a Communist president who is (I am convinced) willing to spill the blood of many of us citizens in order to limit our ability to worship as we please and witness to any one who will listen to the gospel. I have only one question. WHERE IS ANOTHER LESTER ROLOFF? Where is another DAVID? Where is another ELIJAH?

      1. Steven says:

        I have been listening to Bro Roloff for a few days while not being able to work, While reading this I notices you worked for Alfred Edge where my father, Charlton Fairless, worked before getting his brokers license … did yall know each other? My sister went to Roloff’s school in 2nd grade after we were transfered to CC.
        I just listened to Bro Roloff’s sermon “Azariah” on you tube …. Wow, if you want to get riled at the govt that will do it.

    2. DRittenberry says:

      Amen T Herrington. I knew Lester Roloff personally and It makes me sick the lies that are said about him. I know he wanted to help people. Most of the people who came to him were already criminals or juvenile delinquents (myself) so I guess we have to consider the source of all the lies.

  4. Dale says:

    TCC Jr, Lester Roloff, though perhaps not by his own hands, beat those poor girls. It’s all good and well you were such wonderful friends with him. However, you weren’t disenfranchised as those in these homes were. My question: if Roloff did not have anything to hide, what’s the problem with state oversight? I’ll stop here as I feel some really vulgar language about to come forth.

    1. Dale says:

      To take this a little further, before you start with the “OBAMA’S THE ANTICHRIST” crud, do you use the services of a physician? Would it make a difference to you if the physician was exempt from state licensing requirements because he/she went to a church-affiliated medical school? In other words, what if a state were to say, “Well, this medical school is affiliated with a church, so if the school says they can practice medicine, we have no right to interfere.” Can’t wait to hear the rationale here.

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