Rev Dr Robert Spooney-The Orlando Times
Rev. Dr. Robert M. Spooney: A Holistic Man With Holistic Faith
BY DR. BARBARA J. MCLEAN-SMITH
Photo Cutline: Left to right: Danielle Spooney, Mrs. Gloria M. Spooney, Rev. Dr. Robert M. Spooney,Ashley Spooney Wilson and Ashley’s husband, Dr. Chandler L. Wilson
ORLANDO - Micah 6:8 (NIV) reminds us that “He has shown you, O mortal what is good and what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Reverend Dr. Robert M. Spooney, Senior Pastor of the Mt. Zion Missionary Institutional Baptist Church is such a human being doing what the LORD requires of him.Rev. Dr. Spooney is a native of Orlando, born in Parramore, at what was then “Orange Memorial Hospital”, later Orlando Regional Medical Center and now Orlando Health.
Rev. Dr. Spooneyis a history buff and most certainly an inherent part of Orlando’s history. He was raised in Parramore and recalls and relates many historical happenings in Orlando with detail and imagery. He attended the distinguished Jones High School, founded in 1895 for African American students. Rev. Dr. Spooney can fully hold your attention while relating the history of Jones High from its inception in an “old framed building” named Johnson Academy to the renaming of it in 1912 to Jones High School. The school was named in honor of its then principal, L.C. Jones, whose family had also donated the land on the corner of Parramore and Washington Streets to house the school.While at Jones High School, Robert Spooney and his best friend Ronald Rodgers, not only played football together but together assisted in the “blocking of an effort to close Jones High School”. They, under the advisement of Spooney’s, French teacher and mentor, Mr. Reuben Patrick, Spooney, Rodgers and members of the student council were instrumental in the planning and carrying out of a “School Walk Out”. That occasion was the epitome of a non-violent protest which was instrumental and precluded the closing of the school.
After the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, Spooney was selected, by another one of his mentors, The Late Reverend Jim Perry, to speak for the “Youth of Orlando” at a memorial service jointly coordinated by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This Memorial Service, a major event, was held at Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, then, located on the corner of Parramore Avenue and South Street.
Rev. Dr. Spooney graduated from Jones High in 1969 and admitted and matriculated at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) where he earned a Bachelor Degree in “History and Secondary Education in 1973”. His aim was to teach but God had another plan for him at that time. His high school teacher and coach, Napoleon Ford, referred him to Southern Bell. Coach Ford (and remembered as “Nap Ford”) had learned that “Southern Bell could not find any recent graduates to pass the test for employment.Since he had taught and coached Spooney, he ‘knew’Spooney would pass the test. Coach Ford actually drove Dr. Spooneyto Orange Avenue and Church Street to Southern Bell to take the test. Of course, he passed with flying colors. He was hired immediately.
Rev. Dr. Spooneyspent twenty-six years (1973-1996) at Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company later known as BellSouth Business Systems. Dr. Spooneybecame “Assistant Vice President of BellSouth. While there, in 1989, Dr. Spooney enrolled and completed the BellSouth Executive MBA program at NOVA University”. During his tenure at BellSouth, He was bestowed a plethora of awards to include the “coveted Bellsouth President Award for outstanding sales management and leadership”. He was the first African American to receive such public esteem.Dr. Spooney was also a member of BellSouth’s President’s Club and Summit Club, indeed a distinguishing honor.
Coinciding with Dr. Spooney’s business acumen, he attended Logos Bible College and Graduate School earning a Master of Theology Degree in 1997.During the next several years, Dr. Spooneyhad dual, triple and sometimes a list of assignments as God directed and provided. He earned his Doctor of Theology Degree from Slidell Baptist Theological Seminary in Slidell, LA; attended and graduated from the “Sumer Leadership Institute” of Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. “He was Associate Pastor and Minister of Ministries at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, FL under the tutelage of his father in the ministry, the Rev. Dr. R.C. Stanley.” Rev. Dr. Spooney has been either associate pastor or pastor of churches throughout Florida; to name a few, St. James Freewill Baptist Church in Winter Haven, FL; Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Orlando, FL; and associate minister of Fellowship Baptist Church of Pine Hills. Currently, Rev. Dr. Spooney is senior pastor of the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Institutional Church here in Orlando which on May16, 2021 celebrated its Church Anniversary of 141 years. The congregation moved into the present edifice in 1962.
Dr. Spooney enlightened me as he explained “that whenever we see ‘Institutional’ in a church’s name, it is because the church was also established either as a Christian or a public school.
Rev. Dr. Spooney says “I was called to the ministry around age 11 or 12 years old but did not answer the call until 1996 at the age of 45. When God brought the call afresh, my maternal grandmother, (who he affectionally calls) “Big Mama” said: ‘if the boy is called to preach, it will come to pass”. And we know, it certainly came to pass. “He was ordained in 1997 which equates to 24 years in ministry.”
Rev. Dr. Spooney’s list of accomplishments is very long. Along with many ongoing accomplishments, Rev. Dr. Spooney is and has been a “Church Partner” with The Orlando Times newspaper for ten years or more. In addition to his partnership, you will find enlightening sermons and sermon series. When asked how he did and still manages all the many church activities, speaking engagements and civic and community work, he replied: “My philosophy on life is you do what you have to do.We are one, our cause is one; if you’re going to be successful, we must help one another.Of the many people who have helped shape my philosophy on life is Frederick Douglass, editor of the nineteenth century anti-slavery newspaper, The North Star.” Dr. Spooney goes on with much Orlando history and noted influential peopleliving in Orlando to include but not limited to The Honorable, Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy, the first African American Commissioner, The Honorable Mable Butler, the first female African American City Commissioner and his best friend into adulthood, the late Ronald Rodgers, Co-founder and former president of 100 Black Men in Orlando.
Rev. Dr. Spooney is married to his college sweetheart, the former Gloria Moore of Bartow, FL and now “First Lady” Gloria M. Spooney. They met freshman year at FAMU, dated throughout college; after graduation, married in 1973 and will celebrate 48 years of marriage come September 1, 2021. First Lady Spooney has been “supportive and a great encourager” of Dr. Spooney’s careerduring his continued education, their several relocations and pastorates throughout their marriage. She is successful within her own right with careers in education and Title Insurance. They are the proud parents of two daughters, Danielle Spooney and Ashley Spooney Wilson. Danielle is employed by Orange County Public Schools (OCPS). Ashley is a nurse practitioner in Tallahassee, FL. Ashley’s husband,Dr. Chandler L. Wilson is the assistant director of the “Marching and Athletic Bands” at Florida State University. Their two grandchildren are the ‘apples of their eyes’ bringing them much joy.
Dr. Spooney says of his family, “We are simple people; we like to spend free time as a family. Prior to the Pandemic, we liked going to see action movies. I enjoy playing all sports including tennis and golf.” Rev. Dr. Spooney is indeed a holistic man with holistic faith and a holistic approach to life. He walks humbly and lives up to the church’s motto in his belief that “Everybody is somebody and Christ reigns Supreme.”