Rev. Dr. Robert Johnson Ralls

Apr 13, 2017

GREENSBORO –  Rev. Dr. Robert Johnson Ralls was blessed by God and family all his life. On Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017, he went to his eternal home following an extended illness.

He is pre-deceased by his parents, Katherine Johnson Ralls and Marion Lee Ralls; and his brother, Dr. Marion Lee “Lefty” Ralls, Jr.

Dr. Ralls was highly affected by his devoted father’s death when he was a senior in high school. Two men, his family’s minister and his father’s life insurance agent, ministered to his spiritual needs. For two years, he knew he wanted to follow one of these professions. By his sophomore year at Guilford College, the call came through loud and clear. He was called to preach. If he was going to be a minister, he wanted to be a good one. So he started working hard on leadership development.

At Guilford College, he was elected vice-president of his freshman class; president of his sophomore class; president of his junior class; president of Men’s Student Government; president of the North State Student Council; and elected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.

At Duke Divinity School, his strong interest was in homiletics (preaching). He took every opportunity to improve his preaching. He completed a summer seminar at Wake Forest University. He became an associate minister with Dr. James C. Stokes at Main Street United Methodist Church, Reidsville. And he started working on his senior sermon to be preached at Duke Divinity School before the faculty and student body.

When he preached his sermon, Dean Robert E. Cushman and Dr. James T. Cleland (preaching professor from Scotland) encouraged him to go the University of Edinburgh and study under Professor James S. Stewart. Dean Cushman also published his sermon in the Duke Journal. While in Scotland, Dr. Ralls preached in congregations of the Church of Scotland every other Sunday.

After a year at the University of Edinburgh, he was looking forward to his future ministerial appointments and his marriage to Aileen Fox in Charlotte, who was on the staff of Myers Park United Methodist Church. Aileen is a graduate of Winthrop University with a degree in early childhood development. They were married at Myers Park, and she became the love and encourager of his life.

They are the proud parents of two sons, Dr. Robert Scott Ralls, a college president, and Dr. Walter Mark Ralls, a United Methodist minister.

He is also survived by his brother George T. (Jace) Ralls; two daughters-in-law, Lisa Ralls and Jennifer Ralls; two grandsons, Benjamin and Lucas Ralls; grand-niece, Ellen Ledbetter; and “adopted” family members, Devone Jackson and Tyair Jackson-Smith; along with nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

Dr. Ralls’ pastoral appointments were the following — St. Mark’s UMC Belmont; West Bend UMC, Asheboro; St. Andrews UMC, Charlotte; First UMC, Waynesville; Central UMC, Mount Airy; First UMC, Morganton; Central UMC, Asheville; District Superintendent, Waynesville District; Wesley Memorial UMC, High Point; District Superintendent, Lexington District.

Dr. Ralls is a graduate of Guilford College, B.A., Duke University Divinity School, M.Div., and Drew University, D.Min.

Two years before he retired, the Western North Carolina Conference published a book of his sermons entitled, “The Greatest Yearning of the Human Heart.”

During his years of retirement in Greensboro, he and Aileen were active in Christ UMC and he and his brother, Jace, worked with Educational Opportunities as directors of travel ministries. Together, they led over 30 trips to the Holy Land, to Europe and to Greece and Turkey.

A memorial service will be held at Christ United Methodist Church on Monday, April 17, at 11 a.m. with the Rev. Mike Bailey, presiding.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to Christ United Methodist Church, 410 N. Holden Rd., Greensboro, NC 27410.

Funeral arrangements are with Forbis & Dick Guilford Chapel and online condolences may be offered at