The Rev. Richard Herbert Fitzpatrick, 85, a longtime member of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees, died from complications of diabetes on Saturday, Feb. 11.
A resident of Annapolis, Md., Fitzpatrick has been a board member since 1976 and served on the Executive Committee until his death. He worked closely with Dr. Elmer Towns, dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, on the direction of the seminary in its early years.
Chancellor and President Jerry Falwell, Jr. called Fitzpatrick “a true friend to Liberty University.”
Falwell said when Liberty was suffering financially in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Fitzpatrick convinced the church he pastored, Riverdale Baptist Church, to loan the university $2 million.
“That loan was a significant factor in Liberty’s financial recovery and ultimate prosperity as an institution,” Falwell said. “Dr. Fitzpatrick went out on a limb for Liberty when it faced its hour of greatest need. My father and I deeply appreciated Herb’s friendship and his love for and loyalty to the mission of Liberty University.”
Fitzpatrick was the pastor of Riverdale Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Md., from 1964-1998. Starting with about 275 members, it grew to become one of the first mega-churches in the area, with more than 3,000 in attendance each Sunday. Fitzpatrick was well known in the Washington, D.C., area for his television ministry, The Riverdale Baptist Hour.
Towns included Fitzpatrick in his 1972 book, “America’s Fastest Growing Churches.” At the time, Fitzpatrick’s church was one of the 10 fastest growing churches in America.
Before coming to Riverdale, Fitzpatrick founded Calvary Baptist Church in Connersville, Ind. Starting with 13 members, that church grew to become listed among the 100 largest churches in America.
“Fitzpatrick is the first pastor to lead two different churches to be listed among the largest churches in America,” Towns said.
Towns called Fitzpatrick “a great pastor and influencer of young people.”
“Dr. Fitzpatrick was one of the original pastors to support Liberty in a great way,” Towns said. “During the second year of Liberty, Dr. Fitzpatrick had 10 students at the college, and by the time the third year was here he had over 20 students here. No other pastor supported Liberty as great as he did in the early days. Over the years no church has sent more students to Liberty University than Dr. Fitzpatrick’s church.”
Fitzpatrick is survived by his wife of 61 years, Lois Bartlett Fitzpatrick, and two children, Dr. Jeri E. Fitzpatrick and James R. Fitzpatrick.
A funeral service will be held at Riverdale Baptist Church at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14. Visitation will be held at Oakey’s Roanoke Chapelâ¨, 318 Church Ave. SW, Roanoke, Va., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 10 a.m. until a service of remembrance in the chapel at 11 a.m. Interment will be held at the Walden-Fitzpatrick family cemetery in Bright’s Corner, Va., following the Roanoke service.