Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries
In 1956 T. Y. Rogers became Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assistant at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. King described Rogers as “one of the most promising young men in the Christian Ministry,” possessing “a keen and analytical mind” (King, 29 September 1960; King, 25 April 1959).
Rogers was born in Sumter County, Alabama, on 8 October 1935. He graduated from Sumter County Training School in May 1952 before completing a BS at Alabama State College in 1955. In November 1956 Rogers became King’s assistant at Dexter. In 1957 Rogers was ordained into the Baptist ministry in a special ceremony at Dexter. He later enrolled at Crozer Theological Seminary, where he earned his BD in 1960. During his summer and winter breaks from Crozer, Rogers returned to Dexter to preach.
In 1960 King resigned from Dexter and returned to Atlanta to be closer to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) headquarters. Upon his departure, Rogers expressed interest in the vacant pulpit at Dexter. King cautioned Rogers on the difficulty of gaining respect from the congregation: “It is one of the most difficult things in the world for a group of people who once taught you to accept you as their spiritual shepherd” (Papers 5:474). Dexter hired a different preacher in late 1960, and Rogers answered the call to Galilee Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He stayed there until 1964, when he returned to the South as pastor of First African Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. King spoke at his installation service in March 1964.
For the next several years, Rogers continued to work closely with SCLC. At the time of his death in 1971, he was serving as SCLC’s director of affiliates.
King to Registrar at Boston University School of Theology, 25 April 1959, MLKP-MBU.
King to Rogers, 31 August 1957, in Papers 4:266–267.
King to Rogers, 18 June 1960, in Papers 5:474–475.
King to Phinehas Smith, 29 September 1960, MLKP-MBU.
“T. Y. Rogers, Member of SCLC Board,” Washington Post, 27 March 1971.