Making college degree possible for ‘farm boy’

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Making college degree possible for ‘farm boy’

Nov. 16, 2007    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0766}

NOTE: A headshot of Roughton is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By the Rev. Bill Roughton**

I had no hope of going to college. Tuition funds were not available. At age 31, a critical health crisis with tuberculosis in both lungs had forced my father, William Harvey Roughton, to take early retirement from his pastoral ministry in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Markesan, Wis. In addition to his full-time pastorate, he was also a full-time theology student at Garrett.

It was a painful crisis. He and his young family moved to the Georgia farm on which he and three earlier generations of Roughtons had lived.

After high school, I expected to make farming my career. In 1942, after plowing the fields all day, I parked the tractor at the barn. My father was in conversation with a visitor. His friend was introduced. The two of them had been a winning debate team at Asbury College in the 1920s.

Years later, that friend, Dr. Z.T. Johnson, had been elected president of Asbury College. Dr. Johnson said to me: “Bill, Asbury College has a farm where students can work. We need a student who has skill operating a tractor.” 

It was a major turning point in my life. One month later, I was on a train that stopped in Wilmore, Ky. Several dozen students exited. Before we left the train station I was working, helping load the farm truck with luggage that we later carried upstairs into several dormitories.

Out on the college farm, 12 to 15 “farm boys” worked an average of four hours a day. We plowed fields, milked cows, baled hay, gathered eggs and grew vegetables. We produced much of the food served in the college dining hall, including most of the pork and beef.

Each of us was grateful for this opportunity. Education that seemed impossible was possible.

My education was continued at Asbury Theological Seminary, where I graduated in 1948. One week after I received my theology degree, I was ordained as a pastor in the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.

It all began when my parents met at Asbury in 1920. Harvey Roughton and Easter Bell Mosser were married the night of their graduation, June 4, 1924. The college president, Dr. H.C. Morrison, officiated at their wedding. Though my father’s health crisis cut short his own ministry, he lived long enough to celebrate the ordination of both of his sons, Bill and Frank, plus two of his grandsons. He rejoiced that through them, his ministry was extended.

When our sons, Ken and Phil, graduated from seminary, they were also ordained in the Florida Conference. Each of them has served more than 30 years, and they are currently serving churches only 12 miles apart in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. 

Ken, Phil and I have been privileged to serve a total of more than 100 years in pastoral ministry in the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church. We are thankful — very thankful. A college president needed a student who could drive a tractor. It was a major turning point.

This article relates Financial Assistance to Students.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Roughton is now retired and lives in Lakeland, Fla.

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