Monday, June 13, 2016

Gay, closeted and buried in history: his uncle's life was erased.

This essay is adapted from Book VI of The Bible Went Down With the Birdie Jean, a reported memoir that will include interviews, essays, and poetry accompanying 300 photographs on Instagram in Fall 2016; you can follow the account now: @thebirdiejean.

Randy R Potts
June 13, 2016

My uncle, Ronald David Roberts, was the oldest son of Oral Roberts, one of the first televangelists in America. At age 37, Uncle Ronnie was found in a car on the side of a backcountry road, shot dead. He was gay and closeted and, for 10 years now, I have been chasing what few facts remain about the part of his life my family has swept under the rug.

I chase after this private history because I am gay as well and, if I am silent, my family could erase me the way they have tried to erase my uncle.


As for the police report of my uncle’s death, it is missing. Told by the sheriff that it couldn’t be found, I sent a FOIA request and have yet to receive a response. Some of the men who have emailed me over the years say they’re too scared to talk on the record, but they won’t say why.


It’s easy to imagine this is nothing but rural precinct incompetence and southern reticence to speak openly about controversial topics: when we talk about sex and death here in Tulsa, we use nouns such as “fornication” and “procreation”, phrases such as “to pass on”, “to go home.”

But it’s also easy to imagine that Oklahoma’s most infamous evangelist didn’t want the homosexual history of his oldest son in the news.


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