M. G. “Pat” Robertson has achieved national and international recognition as a religious broadcaster, philanthropist, educator, religious leader, businessman, and author. He is the founder and chairman of The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) Inc., and founder of International Family Entertainment Inc., Regent University, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, American Center for Law and Justice, The Flying Hospital, Inc. and several other organizations and broadcast entities.
Birth and Early Life Of Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson was born on March 22, 1930, the son of A. Willis Robertson and Gladys Churchill Robertson, in Lexington, Virginia. His father was a congressman and later a senator, a staunch conservative known for his expertise in taxation and banking and for his die-hard segregationist views on issues of race. Robertson grew up largely in Lexington, finishing high school at the elite McCallie School in Chattanooga and then returning home to attend college at Washington and Lee University. Following military service in Korea he enrolled at Yale Law School, where he met Adelia “Dede” Elmer. They were married in August 1954.
Upon completion of law school Robertson took the New York Bar examination and failed it. He became a management trainee with the W.R. Grace Company and seemed destined for a career in international business; then he resigned and joined two law classmates in founding an electronics company. Leaving that business as well, in 1956 he enrolled at what is now New York Theological Seminary. Before graduating in 1959 he had become involved with a circle of fellow believers who were early participants in the neo-charismatic movement, many of them speaking in tongues. He remained in the largely noncharismatic Southern Baptist denomination, however, and was ordained a minister there in 1961. (He resigned his ordination in 1987 prior to announcing his candidacy for president.)
Founded in 1960, CBN was the first Christian television network established in the United States. Today CBN is one of the world’s largest television ministries and produces programming seen in 159 nations and heard in 70 languages including Russian, Arabic, Spanish, French and Chinese. CBN’s flagship program, The 700 Club, which Mr. Robertson hosts, can be seen in 97 percent of television markets across the United States and is one of the longest running religious television shows.
Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, founded by Mr. Robertson in 1978, is a non-profit relief and development organization with a mission statement “to demonstrate God’s love by alleviating human need and suffering in the United States and around the world.” OBI has touched the lives of many people around the world and across the United States, providing goods and services to those in need. To help break the cycle of suffering, OBI implements programs that focus on the primary goals of providing hunger relief, medical aid, disaster relief, and clean water that strive to make a significant impact on people’s lives.
Robertson was the founder and co-chairman of International Family Entertainment Inc. (IFE). Formed in 1990, IFE produced and distributed family entertainment and information programming worldwide. IFE’s principal business was The Family Channel, a satellite delivered cable-television network with 63 million U.S. subscribers. IFE, a publicly held company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, was sold in 1997 to Fox Kids Worldwide, Inc. for $1.9 billion. Disney acquired the Fox Family Channel in 2001 and named it ABC Family.
Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent University was founded in 1977 by Robertson, who now serves as its chief executive officer and chancellor. Regent is a fully accredited university that offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees—online and on campus—in business, communication & the arts, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, and psychology & counseling. Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and has an enrollment of nearly 7,500 students.
Robertson is founder and president of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a public interest law firm and education group that defends the First Amendment rights of people of faith. The law firm focuses on pro-family, pro-liberty and pro-life cases nationwide.
Marion Gordon “Pat” Robertson was born on March 22, 1930, in Lexington, Virginia, to A. Willis Robertson and Gladys Churchill Robertson. His father served for 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Robertson’s ancestry includes Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Virginia, and two United States presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, the great-grandson of the signer of the Declaration of Independence. Robertson also shares ancestry with Winston Churchill.
After graduating with honors from McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a military prep school, Robertson entered Washington and Lee University in 1946, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1948 he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. After graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington and Lee in 1950, Robertson served as the assistant adjutant of the First Marine Division in combat in Korea. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1952 upon his return to the United States. Robertson received a juris doctor degree from Yale University Law School in 1955 and a master of divinity degree from New York Theological Seminary in 1959.
In November 1959 Robertson left New York with his wife, Dede, and their three children and drove to Tidewater, Virginia, where he planned to buy a bankrupt UHF television station in Portsmouth. Arriving with only seventy dollars in his pocket, Robertson proceeded to raise the finances to purchase the station. CBN was formed January 11, 1960, and on October 1, 1961, CBN went on the air for the first time.
Robertson is the author of over 20 books including “I Have Walked with the Living God”, “Right On The Money,” “The Greatest Virtue,” “Miracles Can Be Yours Today,” “Courting Disaster,” “The Ten Offenses,” “Bring It On,” “Six Steps To Revival,” “The Turning Tide,” “The New Millennium,” “The New World Order,” “Shout It From The Housetops,” and his first fiction, “The End of the Age.” “The Secret Kingdom” was number three on Time magazine’s national non-fiction list. “The New World Order” was number four on the New York Times’ non-fiction list of America’s best selling books. “The Secret Kingdom,” “Answers to 100 of Life’s Most Probing Questions,” and “The New World Order” were each in their respective year of publication the number one religious book in America.
Numerous governors, state legislators and mayors have recognized Robertson’s humanitarian efforts with citations. The Virginia Association of Broadcasters presented Dr. Robertson with the 2002 Distinguished Virginian Award. In 1982, he was named Humanitarian of the Year by Food for the Hungry. In 1988 Robertson was named Man of the Year by Students for America. Robertson was named Christian Broadcaster of the Year by National Religious Broadcasters in 1989, and in 2008 was inducted into the Virginia Cable Hall of Fame. In 1992, Robertson was selected by Newsweek magazine as one of America’s 100 Cultural Elite. In recognition of his steadfast support for the nation of Israel, Robertson received the Defender of Israel Award in January 1994 from the Christians’ Israel Public Action Campaign, and a Lifetime Achievement Award for Support of Israel in 2008 by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. In March 2000, Robertson received the prestigious Cross of Nails award for his vision, inspiration and humanitarian work with the Flying Hospital. The award was presented for the first time in the United States in more than 25 years. In July 2002, Robertson was presented with The State of Israel Friendship Award by the Chicago chapter of the Zionist Organization of America. In May 2009, he received the New York Theological Seminary Distinction in Ministry Award as well as having been inducted into the Hampton Roads Business Hall of Fame. And in June, 2013, he received the Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award, the first of its kind awarded by the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington, DC.
Presidential Ambition and Campaign
Robertson’s background as a son of a successful politician and his strong moral drive came to a head with his 1988 candidacy for the presidency. In 1986 he announced a campaign to secure three million signatures on petitions urging him to run, a set of signatures that amounted to an enormous mailing list for fund-raising and volunteer services for the campaign. Claiming to have exceeded that goal, he formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination on October 1, 1987. His campaign embraced themes commonly voiced in conservative America, promoting, for example, fiscal conservatism, opposition to most abortions, moral conservativism on such issues as sexual conduct and pornography, and the return of religious observances to the public schools. For someone who had never previously run for public office, Robertson did very well in the various caucuses and primaries of the 1988 campaign, although he ultimately lost the nomination to George Bush.
During the presidential campaign some of the relatively unorthodox side of Robertson’s theology came to light. The most prominent example involved his claim to have changed the course of a hurricane in 1985 by praying, on the air, “In the name of Jesus, we command you to stop where you are and move northeast, away from land, and away from harm.” Indeed, Hurricane Gloria changed course and headed northeast, sparing the mainland. Later Robertson suggested that his apparent success in averting bad weather helped confirm his decision to run for president: “It was extremely important because I felt, interestingly enough, that if I couldn’t move a hurricane, I could hardly move a nation.”
Robertson is past president of the prestigious Council on National Policy. In 1982 he served on President Ronald Reagan’s Task Force on Victims of Crime. He previously served on the Board of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and on the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors in the State of Virginia. Robertson founded and served as a past president of the Christian Coalition of America until his resignation in late 2001.
Pat and Dede Robertson have four children, fourteen grandchildren, nine great grandchildren, and reside in Virginia Beach, Virginia.