The Rev. Roy Sherman Isbell Sr. fell asleep in Jesus on Dec. 23, 2022, at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, at the age of 103. He was the son of William Jesse Isbell (a 1917 graduate of Alabama Polytechnic Institute) and his wife Frances Adaline (McMahan) Isbell, longtime residents of Auburn, Alabama. Roy was born on Nov. 21, 1919, in the teacherage at Startown, Catawba County, North Carolina, where his father taught and coached sports at one of North Carolina’s experimental Farm-Life Schools, which provided practical experience in vocational agriculture. Roy began school at Green’s Creek, Polk County, North Carolina. In 1928 the family returned to Auburn so that his father could study veterinary medicine, and Roy spent most of his growing up at Auburn. He made a profession of faith in Christ at First Baptist Church, and began studying at A.P.I., where his participation in the Baptist Student Union made a profound impression on him. Before the United States entered World War II, he took advantage of the free lessons in flying which the government was offering at Auburn. He then entered the Navy, and later the Merchant Marine, in which he served five tours on Atlantic and Pacific convoys in 1944 as a deck cadet on the oil tanker “White River.”
At the end of the war, Roy went directly to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, to study for the ministry. On Dec. 15, 1946, he was ordained to the ministry at Langdale Baptist Church, Chambers County, Alabama, and on Dec. 18 was married at Auburn to Louie Verle Warren, of Tallapoosa County, Alabama, whom he had met at the Auburn B.S.U. After a honeymoon at Gatlinburg, Tennessee, they both pursued studies at Southern Seminary, where he graduated in 1948. They then returned to Alabama so that Roy could complete his degree at A.P.I. in 1949. In 1950 he accepted an appointment as B.S.U. director at Delta State College in Cleveland, Mississippi, where his son Roy Sherman Isbell Jr. was born. In 1951 Roy became B.S.U. director at Mississippi State College, at Starkville, where his daughter Sally Frances Isbell was born. In 1960 he began studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he graduated with a master’s degree in religious education in 1961. He was B.S.U. director at the University of Missouri (Columbia) from 1961 to 1970, and Lou taught child development at the university and was heavily involved in the early development of the Head Start program. Both at Mississippi State, and again at the University of Missouri, he helped secure land and lay plans for new B.S.U. facilities. Besides working in real estate in Missouri, Roy did pioneer B.S.U. work in New England and in South Florida between 1985 and 1995. Roy and Lou moved to Boca Raton, Florida, in 1992, and Lou died there on Dec. 7, 1996. Roy then married Ruth (McCulloch) Jones in 1998, and they resided in Birmingham, Alabama. Ruth died Dec. 13, 2019.
Roy is survived by his two children, the Rev. Sherman Isbell (Lisa) of Fairfax, Virginia, and Dr. Sally Powers (David) of Pelham, Massachusetts; his two grandchildren, Dr. Sophia Powers (Martin Lin) of New York City and Max Powers (Lucy Bicks) of Los Angeles; 10 nieces and seven nephews; and two stepdaughters, Brenda Jones (Steve Johnson) of Birmingham and Debbie Greer (Kip) of Collierville, Tennessee.
There was a visitation on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, from 11:30 a.m. to noon, at Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home in Opelika, Interment was at Memorial Park Cemetery in Auburn, with a graveside service at 1 p.m. Pastor Danny Wood officiated. A further memorial service will be held at Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home in March, on a date yet to be determined.