Bob Childress (1890–1956) was a Presbyterian minister who was born in the town of Ararat, Virginia and raised in the Primitive Baptist tradition. He became known throughout the Southern Appalachian region for his work to transform the region's culture of violence and promote basic education. He is also the founder of the famous "Rock Churches" of Floyd, Patrick and Carroll counties in Virginia.
As a young man he witnessed and was caught up in the violence, alcoholism and ignorance of his impoverished and then isolated Buffalo Mountain community. He claimed that his earliest memory was of his mother nursing his illness by holding a whisky soaked rag to his mouth. Unable to attend school for much of his childhood he often resorted to violence and began drinking heavily. But upon witnessing a massacre at a court house he vowed to quit drinking and entered law enforcement. Eventually he got married and had children. After a chance visit to a Presbyterian church he began attending regularly and soon realized that he wanted to become a minister. He returned to high school at the age of 30 in the same one room school as his 6-year-old son.
After getting a high school diploma he enlisted the help of his local minister to gain entry into the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond Virginia and was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1926. He soon became known for his very warm and personal preaching style and was in demand by established churches throughout Virginia and the Eastern United States. His desire however was to return to his Appalachian community to help eradicate the violence and ignorance that was so pervasive. Through his 30 years of ministry he built and led congregations at six famous “Rock Churches” of which five of remain in the towns of Meadows of Dan, Bluemont, Buffalo Mountain, Slate Mountain, Dinwiddie and Willis. All but the Willis church are yet in use by Presbyterian congregations. In 2002, the Churches were submitted to the National Register of Historic Places as the Reverend Robert Childress Presbyterian Churches MPS.
In the 1950s Childress was leading services in fourteen churches a week and traveling tens of thousands of miles a year. The Synod of Virginia noted that “Only eternity will tell the tremendous good accomplished in this unusual diocese.” Childress died in 1956 at the age of 66.
His life was chronicled in a book titled The Man Who Moved A Mountain.
- Sites on the Reverend Robert Childress Presbyterian Churches MPS:
- http://www.roanoke.com/news/nrv/wb/wb/xp-94728[permanent dead link]
- "Bob Childress Who Tamed the Buffalo". Christianity.com. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
- Patrick County: Images of America |Author Thomas D. Perry |Page 94 |Publisher Arcadia Publishing, 2007 ISBN 0-7385-5297-6,
- http://www.roanoke.com/extra/196542[permanent dead link]
- The Man Who Moved a Mountain by Richard Davids, Fortress Press, First Printing 1970