Georgia Department of Agriculture

Commissioner Columbus Roberts, 1937 - 1941

Commissioner Columbus Roberts

Born in 1870 as the first of fourteen children to George and Mary Alice Roberts, Columbus Roberts learned the value of hard work and the humility of poverty. By age ten he had come to the end of his formal education and had begun life as a tenant farmer.

What Columbus Roberts learned in school was the importance of reading and basic arithmetic. He reports that he read at least two hours every day, especially enjoying history, geography, and the Bible. As a young man Roberts earned a reputation as a knowledgeable, hardworking, Christian man.

Through an exciting series of events beginning in 1888 Columbus Roberts entered the world of business and learned the necessary skills to make him a success. He began as a shipping clerk in an Atlanta firm and progressed through learning experiences as a deliveryman, a grocer, and finally as a pioneer in the soda-pop bottling industry. In 1901 Roberts took a risk and signed an exclusive contract with a new soft drink company in Atlanta: Coca-Cola.

The unexpected and phenomenal growth of Coca-Cola made Columbus Roberts a wealthy man. His wealth, however, never changed his basic commitments to family and faith. His reputation as a keen businessman and a person of unquestioned integrity continued to push Roberts into the spotlights of civic and ecclesiastical responsibility. In late 1912 Roberts was elected as a deacon of the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Georgia. For thirty-eight years he was a deacon there. In the late 1920s his civic commitments led to his election to the Georgia House of Representatives. For the rest of his life, Columbus Roberts served his church and his community, even when his church was as large as the Georgia Baptist Convention and his community spanned the whole of Georgia.

By the time of his death on August 26, 1950, Columbus Roberts had served all of Georgia as the State Commissioner of Agriculture from 1937 through 1940, and he had served Georgia Baptists as the President of the convention in 1946 and 1947. Since 1945 the name of Columbus Roberts has been associated with the department of Christianity at Mercer University in Macon. As a man committed to his faith, Roberts gave his money and his name to establish the Roberts School of Christianity, later renamed The Roberts Department of Christianity.

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