Robert F. Tobin (1894~1947)
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
According to his ancestral records, Robert F. Tobin was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. His father was an Irishman from County Tipperary, Ireland. Mr. Tobin’s first wife was also from Ireland. Together, they had seven children. In 1859, the Tobin’s immigrated to the United States, and settled in Marion Township, Putnam County, Indiana. In October, 1869, Mrs. Tobin passed away.
On February 2, 1871 (in Putnam County) Mr. Tobin married a former slave girl. They moved to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and soon began a family of their own. On April 4, 1894, the first of five children born to this union was Robert Franklin Tobin. On February 8, 1899 Robert’s father passed away, leaving his mother to raise her children by herself. Robert was only five years old at the time. The task of raising five children by herself was overwhelming for Robert’s mother. At the age of six, Robert’s grandmother was granted custody of him, and he was promptly moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where his grandmother continued to raise him. On December 20, 1919, Robert’s mother died at the age of 78. Robert’s parents are both buried in Green Castle, Indiana.
Robert had a fairly light complection with a spray of freckles across his face, probably due to his Irish heritage. He grew up on the east-side of Indianapolis, where he attended school. He didn’t have the opportunity to graduate from high school, as he was called on to go to work at an early age in order to help support his family. As a young man he did janitorial work. Robert’s maximum height was a mere five feet two inches tall.
As a young boy, Robert fell in love with baseball. He seemed to have a natural talent to play the game. Between 1913 and 1918 Robert pitched for the Negro National Leauge. Later on, after he was called to preach, he incorporated some of his baseball techniques into his preaching mechanics. The older saints at Christ Temple, who had the priviledge of sitting under his ministry are quoted as saying, “He would rare back on one leg, and wind up as though he was going to throw a baseball. Then, he would follow through as if he were releasing something! Of course it was the Word of God that he was so timely delivering.”
As he grew into man-hood, Robert found solace in his love for a young lady from Indianapolis, whose name was Lenina B. Smith. They were married in 1916. No children were born to this union. Shortly after their wedding, Robert was called on to serve his country in World War I. He entered into the Army as a Corporal, serving with the 809th Pioneer Infantry, which was an all black unit.
While Robert was serving his time in France, Lenina began attending the Apostolic Faith Assembly, located at 11th and Senate Avenue in Indianapolis, pastored by Elder G.T. Haywood. In 1917, Lenina was baptized in Jesus’ name, and received the Holy Ghost. After his return home, Robert discovered that his wife had been saved. At the age of 24, Robert accepted the apostolic message, was baptized in Jesus’ name, and filled with the Holy Ghost. His experience so illuminated him until it was not long afterward that he accepted his call into the ministry.
All of Elder Tobin’s ministerial development came from the late Bishop G.T. Haywood. In 1925, he became pastor of the Apostolic Faith Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and held this position for five and one half years. On April 7, 1931, Bishop Haywood passed away. Afterward, the deacon board of Christ Temple requested that Elder Tobin accept the pastorate of the church. On November 4, 1931, Elder Tobin left Grand Rapids, and returned to Indianapolis, and continued Bishop Haywood’s legacy.
Elder Tobin served the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World for 12 years as General Secretary. On April 22, 1945, his wife (Lenina) passed away. On March 11, 1946, Elder Tobin married Sister Lillie Harper. Their marriage lasted only thirteen months when Elder Tobin became very ill. On April 7, 1947, after a short illness, Elder Tobin fell on sleep.
Elder Tobin set the bar very high for those who came after him. He was often emulated, but never duplicated. He had a unique personality, which featured his fixed “gray steel” eyes, and slight frown. He was highly respected, and has been sorely missed by his peers.