Dr. Robert Leslie Sumner

August 3, 1922December 5, 2016

Dr. Robert Leslie Sumner, 94, of Lynchburg, Virginia went to his heavenly home on December 5, 2016. He was born to the late Clarence and Gladys Sumner on August 3, 1922 in Norwich, NY. He accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior at LeTorneau Christian Camp at Canandaigua, NY at age 17. Almost immediately, he felt the call to preach and enrolled in Baptist Bible Seminary in Johnson City, NY where he graduated in 1943. He married the former Orphina Mingori on August 16, 1942.

He was an ordained Baptist minister and evangelist. His first pastorate was in Pontiac, IL. He later served pastorates in Long Beach, CA, Graham, TX, and Portsmouth, OH. In 1955, Dr. John R. Rice, a nationally known evangelist and editor of the Sword of the Lord newspaper invited Dr. Sumner to become Associate Editor and a staff evangelist. Later, Dr. Sumner would write the biography, Man Sent From God, about the life of this good friend and mentor. For years, Dr. Sumner wrote a column for The Sword called Sumner’s Incidents and Illustrations which he later continued in his own paper after Dr. Rice’s death. Dr. Sumner has preached in all of the 50 states, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, and Brazil. He always gave an invitation for people to accept Christ whenever he preached. He signed his correspondence, “Sincerely for souls.” His messages were saturated with Scripture and he read the entire Bible through four times each year since 1946. He read through the Psalms and Proverbs each month, and read the entire Bible through hundreds of times. He was the Founder and Editor of The Biblical Evangelist newspaper, which began in 1966 as the Regular Baptist Evangelist and thus just celebrated its 50th year. He was a prolific author of approximately 50 Christian books and booklets. A gospel booklet he wrote, Heaven Can Be Yours, has circulated more than 2¼ million copies in English, and nearly 400,000 in a half dozen foreign languages. In the mid-1960s, he served on the Council of 14 (now Council of 18) of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. He was inducted into the Fundamentalist Hall of Fame at the Lucerne Conference Center in Lucerne, CA in 1976. He was a Trustee Emeritus for Cedarville University. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Bob Jones University and a Doctor of Sacred Theology from Louisiana Baptist Theological Seminary.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by Orphina, his wife of 55 years, and a sister, Evelyn Maurer. He is survived by his five children; Richard (Donna), Ralph (Masami), Ruth (John Purvis), Rita (Terry Phipps), Ron (Suzanne), their spouses and grandchildren, great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. He is survived by his second wife, Dorothy (Tullar Holm) whom he married on March 20, 2004. He was extremely proud of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Including Dr. Sumner’s children and his eight step-children through Dorothy, the spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren bring the total family number to 126.

A memorial service honoring his legacy and his Lord will be held in the Sanctuary at Timberlake Baptist Church, 21395 Timberlake Rd, Lynchburg, VA 24502, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 17. Dr. Paul Dixon, Chancellor of Cedarville University, will bring the message. Final interment will be at a private family ceremony at Lady Lake Cemetery in Florida where his first wife is buried.

Memorials are preferred to Dr. Sumner’s ministry, Biblical Evangelism (

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  • Memorial Service Saturday, December 17, 2016

Dr. Robert Leslie Sumner

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B.R. Wells

January 25, 2017

A great man of God, who wasn't afraid to declare "thus saith the Lord!" Dr. Sumner always pointed people to Jesus. God bless you dear brother. Great is your reward.

Leslie Piper

January 25, 2017

I just learned of Dr. Sumner's Passing this evening.
I will be eternally grateful to Dr. Sumner as I was saved reading 'Heaven can be Yours' back in 1975. I was 33 years old and had never heard anything so wonderful in my life! Years later I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Sumner when he came to preach in my church (Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis IN)
My Christian Love and prayers to his family,
In Our Lord Jesus Precious Name,
Leslie Piper

Elaine (Dixon) Baker

December 21, 2016

So sorry to hear of the loss of Dr. Sumner. He was a great example of a christian and lived what he believed and preached.

December 15, 2016

Dr. Sumner helped me during a problem I was having with a Christian School. He used his network of contacts to remind these people of why we have Christian Schools. The change in how they represent themselves has been remarkable and continues to this day. Dr. Sumner felt very strongly about the presentation of the Gospel and how it can change lives. I was pleased to know him in writing for a short time. He is now with the Lord he served so faithfully. Doug Downhour Mt. Pleasant MI

Mike Fincham

December 13, 2016

A great man has graduated to doing something he'd been looking forward to...praising his Lord and Savior in eternity. His work here was treasured, his rewards will be great!

warren roy

December 11, 2016

He was a great man and a man who I highly respect! His works taught me the importance why we as preachers need to preach against sin and we as Christians need to live against sin!

Aaron Strange

December 10, 2016

Dr. Sumner was a hero to me. He will be remembered as a man sold out to God and fearless in fighting against sin. Dr. Sumner's books and the ministry of the Biblical Evangelist have blessed countless numbers of people. Dr. Sumner will be missed. Condolences to his family. What a mighty force for God!

Mike and Rene'e Petrillo

December 8, 2016

We are sadden at the sudden and unexpected loss of Dr. Sumner, but with great joy we know that he is now with his Savior and Lord.

December 8, 2016

Dr. Sumner was a wonderful asset to Cedarville University. Thinking of your family during this time. Until we meet again!

Joyce Cughan

December 8, 2016

Uncle Bob was my "special" uncle along with his first wife, Orphina, who was my "special" aunt. I stayed with them one summer while they were in Graham, Texas - and Uncle Bob married Dick and I. I always looked up to him when it came to God's Word. Praying for you all - dear cousins (and Dottie)- as you go through this time. One of these days we will all meet around the Father's throne!!!! Joyce Cughan