Lloyd, Robert Baldwin

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Reverend Robert Baldwin Lloyd—known all of his life as B—of Blacksburg, Virginia, died peacefully on October 11, 2019, surrounded by his loving family. B’s many passions were woven together throughout his lifetime: spreading the joy of God’s love, providing support to those in need, serving as a vocal activist in the American Civil Rights Movement, fighting for social justice, advocating for all of God’s land and creatures, and spreading his whole-hearted belief that there is worth in every being.

Born in Japan of missionary parents, B spent many of his summers at Camp Red Rock, west of Saltville, VA, where his memories revolve around Wise Jackson, the camp’s errand man. Wise Jackson taught B the interrelatedness of life in the cove, and here he developed a love for the region and its people. It was this early exposure to Appalachia that drew him to Appalachian ministry.

A WWII veteran, B was a 1st Lieutenant in the Military Intelligence Service of the U.S. Army as a Japanese language officer, serving in Japan. During this time his sense of compassion and working for social justice began to take deeper root. He earned a B.A. in History from the University of Virginia in 1951 and remained an avid UVA sports fan to the end. B entered the Virginia Theological Seminary and, in true B. Lloyd-style, he graduated, was ordained, and married all in one weekend, June 3-5, 1954! In his ordination, B was continuing a family tradition: his grandfather, father, three brothers, and one sister were all ordained Episcopal priests. Later, B was awarded honorary Doctor of Ministry degrees by both the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Kentucky (1982) and the Virginia Theological Seminary (1983).

Spanning over sixty years, B ministered to innumerable individuals and congregations: Trinity Parish, consisting of St. James’ Church, Louisa and Church of the Incarnation, Mineral, Virginia, where he was an early and vocal supporter of Civil Rights; Episcopal College Chaplain at Virginia Tech, where he greatly influenced and inspired many students; APSO (Appalachian People’s Service Organization), which helped lift voices of those within the communities in which he worked and thereby implement change with both the passage of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 and expanded ministry with urban Appalachians; St. Paul’s Episcopal Mission of the Monacan Indian Nation of Bear Mountain, Virginia, where he spent two decades during his “retirement” ministering and being deeply moved by the Monacan People (in 1994 he was made an honorary member of the Monacan Indian Nation—a highlight of his life); Heritage Hall, Blacksburg, where he and his beloved wife, Mary Ellen, offered communion and companionship to residents on a regular basis; persons who were incarcerated, with whom he communicated through letters, phone calls, and frequent visits; and countless families for whom he officiated at weddings, baptisms, and funerals, often in glorious outdoor settings.

Throughout his life, B sought to understand the interrelatedness of all spiritual and religious faiths, sharing his thoughts—often radical, that is, returning to the roots—through handwritten essays, stories, poems, and long personal letters and Christmas cards. He was a warrior for social and environmental justice and a staunch believer in the power of writing, phoning, and visiting elected representatives to implement policy changes. He was many things to many people: husband, father, friend, teacher, advocate, confidante, and priest.

B was the last surviving member of the “Seven Samurai” (the nickname given to B and his siblings as children in Japan). He will live on through his writings and teachings—and through the innumerable lives he touched. He will be greatly missed. Peace and Cheers to you, dear B, as you are united with family and friends.

B was predeceased by his beloved wife of 58 years, Mary Ellen West Lloyd, and is survived by his children, daughter Mary Cameron Spain of Virginia Beach, son Robey Baldwin Lloyd of Blacksburg, daughter Rebecah (Becky) West Lloyd of New Orleans, and granddaughters Keri Seldon Lloyd, Gabrielle Leigh Lloyd, and Lindsay Rebekah Lloyd; and by many extended family members and friends. B’s family would like to thank his devoted caregivers, Andrea Hendricks, Roberta Rollyson, and Michael Apostolou, and the Carilion Hospice team for making it possible for B to remain in his home for so long and the many people who took B to church in his later years. He will be remembered for his generosity, his joy and passion for life, his boisterous singing, and his robust, infectious laughter.

A funeral service for Reverend B. Lloyd, with Bishop Bourlakas presiding, will be held on Friday, October 18 at 11:00 AM at Christ Episcopal Church in Blacksburg (120 Church Street NE), with a reception to follow. In addition, there will be a memorial service for B on Saturday, October 26, at 11:00 AM (with lunch following) at St. Paul’s Episcopal Mission, Bear Mountain (Amherst, VA).

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Christ Episcopal Church fund established in B’s name, The Rev. B. Lloyd Fund (mailing address: P.O. Box 164, Blacksburg, VA 24063) to continue the type of social justice work about which he was so passionate.