To join The Celebration of Life for Rev. Dr. Robert J. Tolbert Jr. please visit Facebook.com/coryumc August 22, 2020 at 10:30AM

Rev. Dr. Robert J Tolbert Jr.

30 August, 19307 August, 2020

Reverend Dr. Robert James Tolbert Jr. age 89, went to be with his Master on Friday, August 7, 2020.He died of natural causes at Cleveland Clinic- South Point Hospital in Warrensville Heights, Ohio. Funeral Services will be held at Cory United Methodist Church on Saturday, August 22, 2020. Time will be announced. Reverend Dr. Tolbert was born in Murfreesboro, Arkansas on August 30, 1930 to the parents Rev. Robert J. Tolbert Sr. and Ellen Jane Andrews Tolbert. To the union three children were born: Robert J., George W., and Ellen J. who all preceded him in death. Reverend Dr. Tolbert attended Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended Gammon Theological Seminary and graduated. He was pastoring Lennon-Memorial United Methodist Church in South Pittsburg, Tennessee met Mary Carolyn Jones. They were wed. To the marriage were born two children: Carolyn J. and Robert J. Tolbert III. Reverend Dr. Tolbert began his ministerial career in 1950. Over the years he pastored churches in Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio. He entered the United Methodist Church Northeast Ohio Conference in 1969. He pastored Centenary United Methodist Church, Union Avenue UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Reverend Dr. Tolbert was appointed the first African-American in the East Ohio Conference as Akron District Superintendent in 1974-1979. One of his most notable tenures was at the Cory United Methodist Church where he began pastoring in 1979. Cory grew under his leadership where he helped to start many initiatives to include Cory Kitchen and the former, Cory Mass Choir under the direction of Inez Gorman. Reverend Dr. Tolbert received his Doctorate of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio in 1991. He was a loyal and faithful member of the Black Methodist Church Renewal (BMCR). He provided leadership to the East Ohio BMCR and also to the jurisdictional organization. He was a passionate spokesman on behalf of racial justice and a mentor to both clergy and lay. In later years, he pastored smaller churches in the Northeast Ohio Conference but his impact was just as powerful. He retired from the ministry in 2003. Reverend Dr. Tolbert enjoyed teaching bible study, fishing and attending family gatherings of all kinds. He always had a smile and a positive word for members, family and friends. Reverend Dr. Tolbert is survived by his wife, Mary, Cleveland, Ohio; his daughter Carolyn (Cleveland, Ohio) and; Robert (Cleveland, Ohio).


  • Visitation

    Friday, 21 August , 2020

  • Wake

    Saturday, 22 August , 2020

  • Funeral Service

    Saturday, 22 August , 2020


Rev. Dr. Robert J Tolbert Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

William Norman

7 August 2021

I always held Dr. Tolbert in high regard.

Carol Stoudt

30 August 2020

I want to extend my sincere sympathy to all of Rev. Tolbert's family for your loss. My husband, Forest and myself had the pleasure of him presiding over our marriage ceremony on July 1, 1972. At that time, he was the pastor at the UAUMC in Alliance, Ohio, of which I was a member. We were married for 46 wonderful years until Forest was called to his eternal home. I will forever have a vivid, favorite memory of our wedding day shared with Rev. Tolbert, a great man of God!

May God be with all of you.

Neriah Edwards-Boone

28 August 2020

Rev. Tolbert was one of the ministers responsible for my coming to East Ohio. He always told the story of how he talked to Bishop James S. Thomas about me. He was a respected elder in the United Methodist Church, not only in East Ohio, but also in the North Central Jurisdiction and the General Church, especially in the caucus of Black Methodist for Church Renewal. He leaves a legacy of faithfulness. I commend his family, especially, his wife Mary and their children, Carolyn and Robert, into the Master's care. Jesus has already carried your sorrow and borne your grief. Hold to all the memories and be blessed. Neriah Edwards-Boone

Garlinda Burton

21 August 2020

Reverend Tolbert was my first pastor at Lennon Memorial Methodist Church in Knoxville. Mrs. Tolbert was my first children's choir director and Sunday school teacher. He baptized my sister, Karlah. It was because of their love and nurture of my siblings and me that we are all still active Christian workers. I can never sufficiently express my gratitude for how Reverend and Mrs. Tolbert impacted my family. He deserves his heavenly reward. Mrs. Tolbert, Carolyn and Robert, you are in our prayers.


Garlinda Burton (daughter of Margaret Burton), with siblings Garland Jr., Rupert and Karlah)

Larry Randall

21 August 2020

As I recall it was Reverend Tolbert's powerful sermon that called me to join Cory UMC. Also, to serve with the Young Adult group at that time. He was an inspiration to me and my family he will always hold a special place in my heart. My condolences to his family.

Yvonne Conner

20 August 2020

Mrs. Tolbert and Family,

You are in our thoughts and prayers as you prepare to celebrate the life and ministry of your beloved Rev. Tolbert. He was a vessel of purpose and commitment to the call of God to preach, teach, and spread the goodness of Jesus Christ. We lift you in prayer as you treasure memories of moments shared throughout your lives in marriage and ministry. Sincere wishes for God's comfort and peace.
Rev. Dr. Yvonne and Mr. Bonnie Conner & Family

Blake Wagner Sr.

18 August 2020

Bob Tolbert was a kind, caring and effective pastor. We sat together at the General Conference in Atlanta 1972 and Portland in 1976. His warm smile coupled with his great ability made it a great blessing to be in his presence. May our Risen Lord Bob served bring comfort and peace to his loved ones.
Blake and Gere Wagner, Mansfield OH

Bob Kuntz

18 August 2020

Dear Mary, Carolyn, and Robert,
I first met Bob when I was a teenager in the '60s. He was involved in the Civil Rights movement and I respected him for his courage, determination, and kindness. When my wife and I were seminary students at Garrett-Evangelical, Bob came to visit us several times (as the D.S.). He reassured us, as a clergy couple, that he did not consider us a problem and that we would not be difficult to appoint. His reassurance and confidence helped us trust the appointment system, which, as young people, was not an easy thing to do.
Over the years, we had many meals and meetings together. Bob was a great model of leadership. He always lifted our spirits. He had a genuine care and a wonderful sense of humor.
We are sorry, due to the coronavirus (and my wife being extremely high risk) that we cannot come to the calling hours and funeral.
You are in our prayers, that Jesus would comfort you with his great peace, that he would bless your memories of Bob and let them be a source of joy and strength, and that he would give you a glimpse of Bob laughing in heaven with those he loves.
God bless you, Bob (and Libby) Kuntz

Aldersgate UMC Shepherds' Ministry

18 August 2020

Dear Cory UMC Family,
Wishing you peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to forever hold in your hearts. We are here to support you. Praying for all of you.
In Christian Love, Aldersgate UMC Shepherds' Ministry

Barbara Armitage

18 August 2020

Mary, John and I share your grief. We were very young when Bob and your family came to Union Avenue in Alliance. He was so important to me at the time.
I responded to my first altar call when he was at our church. I felt like it had never been done in our church and that morning I was so depressed at leaving my baby to return to work that I felt he did it just for me. He baptized Jason and I remember he was so nervous as it was his first baptism in our church. You and I shared talks and I have fond memories of your entire family. We share your grief.

From the Family