Celebrating Women's History Month in the WNCC: Roberta Blackwell

March 8, 2023

By: Jim Pyatt, WNCC Archivist & Historian

Roberta Blackwell (February 10, 1932 - June 17, 2020) 

The late Roberta Blackwell provided leadership in her community and at all levels of the United Methodist Church in a number of ways. A member of Simpson-Gillespie UMC, Charlotte during her adult life, she served in the church in many ways. She sang in the choir, she taught Sunday School, she headed the Board of Trustees, she was a member of United Methodist Women, she was a leader of the young group and was the adult leader of the Girl Scout Troop sponsored by the church. Ms. Blackwell also served in her church as a Lay Speaker.

Among the ways that Roberta Blackwell served in the Charlotte District were as District Director of Church and Society 1979-84, member of the District Committee on the District Superintendent 1980-93, and as a member of the Charlotte District Trustees 2010-12.

Ms. Blackwell provided leadership in the WNC Conference on a number of boards and agencies. She served as Chair of the Scholarship Committee of the conference UMW in 1990.

She was a member of the conference Board of Church and Society 1980-88, serving as Chair of Human Relations in 1980-81 and as Chair of the Board 1981-84. Following that, she served on the conference Council on Ministries 1988-96, serving as President from 1992-96. Ms. Blackwell then served on the conference Council on Finance and Administration from 1996-2004, after which she served on the conference Board of Pensions from 2004-12, serving as Secretary from 2004-08. Roberta also served on the Board of Managers of The Methodist Home 1986-90.

Regarding her service to the United Methodist Church as a whole, Ms. Blackwell was elected as a delegate to Jurisdictional Conference five times, beginning in 1984. She also served as a delegate to three General Conferences, beginning in 1992, in addition to serving as an

alternate delegate in 1988. Roberta also served as a member of the General Board of Global Ministries from 1984-92.

Ms. Blackwell began her professional career as a secretary at West Charlotte Junior High School. From there she progressed to a number of managerial positions, eventually accepting a position with the City of Charlotte, from which she retired in 1991. However, her service did not end there. “Upon retirement from the city, Roberta accepted the role of Administrative Assistance and Contract Compliance Officer with Bethlehem Center. The director of the Center reports that Roberta’s ‘administrative skills, love of children and families contributed greatly to our mission and program for children.’ She ‘... was admired and respected by all who knew her for her excellent administrative skills and calm demeanor.’” (Obituary | Roberta Elizabeth Blackwell of Charlotte, North Carolina | Grier Funeral Service)

Be sure to read the other biographies written by WNCC Archivist & Historian Jim Pyatt:

Rev. Dr. Arnetta E. Beverly, the first African-American woman to serve as Director of Nurture and Ethnic Ministries, to serve as a District Superintendent in the WNC Conference, and to serve as a Director of Connectional Ministries in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

Rev. Dr. James Walter Ferree, Sr., involved in realigning the North Carolina-Virginia Conference into what is now the three separate North Carolina, Western North Carolina, and Virginia Conferences.

Rev. Cecil Harvey Marcellus, Jr., the first African-American elected to the Reidsville City Council, where he served for three full terms and part of a fourth term.

Dr. David Dallas Jones, the president of Bennett College from 1926-1955.

Rev. William Hornbuckle, a Native American ordained Deacon in 1928 and Elder in 1931.

Daphine Strickland, part of the Task Force that led to the organization of Triad Native American Church, the first Native American congregation in our Conference outside of Cherokee.

Thomas Queen, the Director of the Cherokee Mission from 1973 until his death in 1992.

Jeremiah Wolfe, the first Native American to be elected a delegate to General Conference from the WNCC in 1976.

Rev. David Ortigoza, the Director of Hispanic and Latino Ministries for the SEJ in 2003.

Rev. Diana Wingeier-Rayo, the first Hispanic/Latina woman to be received into full clergy membership in the WNC Conference.

Raul Adriano, the first known person of Hispanic/Latino heritage to be elected by The WNCC to serve as a Lay Delegate to General Conference.

Rev. Carlos Alberto Rodriguez, a key figure at the Board of Missions Office of The WNCC in 1961.

Rev. Dr. Abraham Kim, the first Asian-American to be elected as a clergy delegate to Jurisdictional Conference from the WNC Conference.

Rev. Karen Miyoshi Kagiyama, the first Asian-American women to be ordained an Elder in the WNCC.

In Muk Kim, the first Asian-American to be elected as a delegate (clergy or lay) to Jurisdictional Conference from the WNC Conference.

Rev. M. B. Lee McCrary, the first woman to become a full clergy member of the Western North Carolina Conference. 

Rev. Dolores Barus Queen, the first woman to serve as District Superintendent in the Western NC Conference.

Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer, the first (and to date, the only) woman to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mrs. Jettie Morrison, a key figure in the Women's Society of Christian Service and the integration of The United Methodist Church in 1968.

Bishop L. Scott Allen (May 4, 1918-September 18, 2004), the first (and to date, the only) African-American to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mrs. Effie Miller (September 17, 1930-September 1, 2008), a leader in the Western North Carolina Conference and the United Methodist Church, especially with regard to the United Methodist Women.

The Rev. Dr. J. C. Peters (July 10, 1925- July 2, 1998)the first African-American to serve as a District Superintendent in the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mr. Clarence Winchester,  a leader in the North Carolina Conference (Central Jurisdiction) and in the WNC Conference.

Dr. Isaac Miller (September 26, 1920-November 1, 2008), a leader in Higher Education and in the United Methodist Church.

#BeUMC Personal Reflections