Robert R. Church, Jr., a political leader of color in Memphis and the nation, was born on October 26, 1885, at the family home, 384 South Lauderdale Street, in Memphis. He was one of the two children of Robert R. and Anna (Wright) Church. His sister was Annette E. Church. He was educated at Mrs. Julia Hooks's kindergarten, by private tutors, and at parochial schools in Memphis. Further education was obtained at Morgan Park Military Academy, Morgan Park,Illinois, and Berlin and the Parkard School of Business, New York. He completed his education by spending two years learning banking on Wall Street.
        Robert Church, Jr., returned to Memphis, where he became the manager of Church's Park and Auditorium. He later became cashier of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company, founded by his father, succeeding him as president after his death. Within a few years, he resigned this position to manage the family's extensive real estate holdings. On July 26,1911, Robert Church, Jr., married Sara P. Johnson of Washington, D. C., in that city. They became the parents of one child, Sara Roberta.

        In 1916, Robert Church, Jr., founded and financed the Lincoln League in Memphis, which was established to organize the masses of black citizens to register and vote. It was his conviction that the ballot was the medium through which citizens of color could obtain civil rights. The Lincoln League organized voter registration drives, voting schools, and paid poll taxes for voters. Within a few months, the League had registered 10,000 voters. A Lincoln League Ticket was entered in the 1916 election, which included a black candidate for the Congress. The ticket lost, but it established the Lincoln League as a viable and respected political force in Memphis; the League later expanded into a statewide and national organization.
        In 1917, Church organized the Memphis Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the first branch in Tennessee. In 1919, he was elected to the national board of directors for the NAACP, representing fourteen southern states.
        There were two factions of the Republican party in Memphis during Church's lifetime: one labeled by the daily press as the "Lily-White" (all white) wing of the party, and the other led by Church and called by the daily newspaper the "Black and Tans" (Negro and white). Robert Church, Jr., was a delegate from Memphis to eight successive Republican National Conventions from 1912-1940, having to battle each time with the white faction opposed to black participation in the party. Since Church's organization supplied the votes which carried the Republicans to victory in Memphis and Shelby County, he, as leader, was consulted by national party officials about federal patronage. Because the political climate in the South during his lifetime had not reached the point where he could recommend qualified black candidates for U. S. Postmaster, federal judge, U. S. Attorney, etc., he very carefully selected and recommended for those positions white candidates whom he thought were qualified men and who would perform their duties fairly and justly in the best interests of all segments of the population. He was requested frequently to recommend individuals for federal jobs in other southern states. He was consulted about political strategy by Republican Presidents and other high party officials so often that Time magazine referred to Church as the "roving dictator of the Lincoln Belt."
        In the 1920s, when Robert Church, Jr., was at the height of his political influence, E. H. Crump, the Memphis Democratic leader, had not reached his political zenith. Church and Crump had totally disparate political philosophies and maintained autonomous political organizations. When it became necessary to discuss political procedures with the city administration, such as primary or general elections, county conventions, etc., Church wasrepresented by attorneys from his group, usually Josiah T. Settle, Jr., a Negro, and George Klepper and Baily Walsh, both of whom were white. Since it was not possible for a Republican to be elected mayor of Memphis, Church occasionally supported Democratic candidates he thought would be fair to Negroes, such as Watkins Overton, a family friend.
        In 1940, when it appeared that Wendell Wilkie, the Republican candidate for President, might defeat incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in order to prevent Church's return to power (should the Republicans win the election), the city administration moved to destroy Church's political base by seizing his real estate holdings, allegedly for back taxes. At the same time, the city administration moved against two prominent Church associates: Dr. J. B. Martin, owner of the South Memphis Drug Store on south Florida Street, and Elmer Atkinson, proprietor of a cafe on Beale Street. City policemen, stationed at the front entrances of the men's establishments, searched all customers who entered, causing Martin and Atkinson to sustain tremendous financial losses. Atkinson had to close his cafe. Martin and Atkinson moved to Chicago, and Church established himself in Washington, D. C. Church Park and Auditorium was renamed "Beale Avenue Auditorium," and the family home was burned, ostensibly to test some of the City's new fire-fighting equipment.
        At the invitation of his friend, A. Philip Randolph, the distinguished Negro labor leader, Church accepted membership on the board of directors of the National Council For A Permanent Fair Employment Practices Committee (now known as Equal Employment Opportunity) and worked tirelessly for the enactment of such legislation. In 1944, he organized and was elected chairman of the Republican American Committee, a group of 200 Negro Republican leaders from thirty-two states, who united to pressure Republican senators and congressmen to enact fair employment and other civil rights' legislation.
        Church visited Memphis in 1952, after attending the Republican State Convention in Nashville, to promote General Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Republican candidate for President. He was talking Republican politics when he died of a fatal heart attack on April 17, 1952.