FORT WORTH — You will never meet a more remarkable man than Orville Rogers. Today he is 99 years old, a competing athlete, and a world record holder in track and field championships.
He is the oldest man to run a 10-minute mile. He has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania at an altitude of over 19,000 feet. He has run 26-mile marathons. He holds sixteen age-group world records for individual and relay running events. In fact, he has just written his autobiography, entitled The Running Man.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper, of the famous Cooper Clinic in Dallas, TX, stated, “Orville Rogers is truly one of the most deeply committed, disciplined, and talented individuals I have ever had the privilege of working with in my 60 years of practicing medicine. I only hope that one day when I ‘grow up,’ I will be able to enjoy the highest quality of life which he has been able to enjoy.”
As evidence of that discipline, watch below where in February Rogers came from behind to win a race against his 92-year-old competition.
Rogers was born in his parent’s ranch house on Nov. 28, 1917 near Hubbard, OK. When he was ten years old, Orville accepted Jesus as his Savior in the little church across the street from where he lived.
A pilot for almost 60 years, he admittedly professes his love for flying. He has plans to participate in national track events in his age range when he reaches his 100th birthday in November. But primarily, he is a devout Christian who has found a multitude of ways to serve the Lord.
Reach high, ignore consequences
Rogers stated, “In the summer of 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis in a circle above our little schoolhouse in Oklahoma. That brush with greatness inspired me at an early age to reach for the heights and ignore the consequences.”
After graduating from high school, Orville went to the University of Oklahoma where he met Esther Beth Shannon. He recalled, “Beth was dating somebody else, but I was a very patient man. I set my sights on her and never gave up. My approach was slow, but it was effective. It took some time, but eventually I convinced her to come over to my side.
“For the next four years she was my friend, my prayer mate, and a lover, in the good sense of the word. It’s unheard of these days, but I didn’t kiss Beth until I had known her about three years. I was afraid I’d upset her. I didn’t want to endanger my relationship by going too fast.”
Orville and Beth got married under some rather unusual circumstances and were life partners in marriage and ministry for 64 years, nine months, and five days until her death on March 8, 2008 at the age of 88. She was his first airplane passenger in 1940 and his last passengers 59 years later.
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma Orville, convinced he should do some kind of work for God, decided to go to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX (He is a member of the Board of the Board of Visitors today.). He enrolled on Sept. 10, 1940, but less than two months later was drafted into the military service and permitted to join the Air Corps as a flying cadet.
In the air
Rogers became a skillful pilot and instructor during World War II, preparing other pilots to fly in defense of our country. He carried out secret missions during the Cold War. During the Korean War, Rogers was recalled from reserve status to active duty. It was during that war he got to fly the B-36, the largest airplane in the world. The B-36 had ten engines and was designed to carry a maximum bomb load of 84,000 pounds, or one atom bomb.
He later became a pilot for Braniff Airlines and served until the company’s retirement policy at age 60 mandated the end of his commercial piloting.
He commented, “I had asked God to tell me what to do next, and He set His answer in motion with head-swimming speed.
“I firmly believe God not only wants the very best for us, but also wants us to ask it of Him. For the next 17 years, I flew airplanes in the service of my Lord, facing great challenges as well as moments of unspeakable joy. I only had to ask and it was given.”
Orville’s love for flying connected him with Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS), a service arm for Wycliffe Bible Translators. He soon started ferrying airplanes for jungle missionaries across the wide oceans. At one point when in their 60s, Orville and Beth served 13 months in Tanzania as volunteer missionaries.
The good guy
Rogers recently told a group in Fort Worth that during his professional life he earned $1,550,000. But wise investments in the stock market and the oil and gas business has allowed him and his wife, Beth, to give away $34 million. He explained, “I believe the only way we could have accumulated so much wealth was by giving it away. God knew we would give back as much as we possibly could, and He helped us grow and grow in abundance. God was, and continues to be, involved in every aspect of my life, including my finances.”
Orville Rogers’s story is about the good guy finishing first, and he will tell you in no uncertain terms that all the good in his life – and there has been much – comes directly from God.”
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX, says of Orville Rogers, “[His] greatest accomplishments are not his amazing U.S. World Indoor and Outdoor Track records in the 90-99 age group, or his numerous mission trips, but his ability to inspire and motivate people to ‘continue the race.’”