In Memoriam: Robert David Kaylor
Robert David Kaylor, retired Davidson College professor, Presbyterian Minister, and resident of Highland Farms in Black Mountain, NC died surrounded by his family on April 20, 2022.
Born on October 1, 1933 in New Market, Alabama to Reverend Lemuel Jefferson and Johnnie Hanson Kaylor, he grew up the youngest of eleven children. Faith, family, and community anchored his youth, inspiring a lifetime of scholarship, ministry and social action.
Kaylor dedicated himself to teaching religion, becoming the James Sprunt Professor of Religion at Davidson College where he taught for 35 years. He earned an A.B. from Southwestern at Memphis and a Bachelor of Divinity from Louisville Seminary, then served as a pastor in Montevallo, Alabama. He joined the faculty of Davidson College after completing a Ph.D. at Duke University in1964.
A fearless and vocal activist, Kaylor worked to right the economic and political wrongs of society. As a young pastor in Alabama David allied himself with the Civil Rights Movement, beginning a lifetime of social engagement. From anti-Vietnam War protests to nuclear arms opposition, to human right activism he pursued peace and justice worldwide. He encouraged others to speak truth to power, championing the rights of minorities and women. Locally, David co-founded Davidson’s Habitat for Humanity chapter. As he put it to his family, revolution is often destructive; he preferred to build a better world one home at a time.
As a teacher and scholar, Kaylor inspired students to engage the world. He moved beyond standard interpretations of scripture, responding to Jesus’s and the Apostle Paul’s calls to challenge injustice and advocate for the poor. He stressed the crucial role that faith plays in motivating political and social change. He viewed Jesus as a provocateur of justice, a balm to the downtrodden and questioner of worldly powers. His books focused on Christ’s hopeful message of a better world grounded in loving community.
Kaylor led his personal life focused on family, friends and home. Never one to sit still, he took joy in sports and physical labor. He completed his family’s home, raised a vegetable garden, played lots of tennis, and crafted wooden furniture and vessels. David played games, made ridiculous puns and to his last breath, had twinkle in his eye.
Kaylor was preceded in death in 2018 by his wife of 62 years, Dorothy Marion (née Henning) Kaylor. The two are survived by their five children and eight grandchildren: Marilyn Kaylor (Steve Hale) , of Black Mountain, NC; Cathryn Harbor (David) of Lexington, VA, and their children Erin, Kaia, and Thomas; David William Kaylor (Jennifer), of Asheville, NC, and their sons Asa and Hanson; Charles Kaylor (Laura Johnson) of Garrett Park, MD and their children Haven Kaylor and Erin Hurst; and Marion Owen (Judd) of Decatur, GA, and their children, Dorothy and Issac.
A memorial service for David Kaylor will take place on Saturday, May 7, 1 p.m. at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church. In lieu of flowers, David requested that donations be made to Asheville Habitat for Humanity.