From Ivy League to Wall Street: 5 Pat Robertson Facts You Didn’t Know

Christian activist Pat Robertson, who died at the age of 93 on Thursday, is well-known as the pioneering televangelist and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). But his life had many twists and turns before he dedicated it to the Lord.

Upon his passing, CBN said in a memorial statement that Robertson’s “greatest treasure in life was knowing Jesus Christ and having the privilege of proclaiming Him and His power to others.”

That dedication to the Lord is what most remember him for. Certainly, many remember him most as the host of CBN’s The 700 Club where he eloquently spoke on Christian values, and railed against the social contagions he felt were bedeviling the United States. With his Christian Coalition, his work through the 1980s and into the 2000s helped rally Christians to Republican presidents including Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.

Indeed, Robertson even launched his own bid for president with a 1988 campaign in the GOP primaries. Despite his loss in that contest, he continued to be a prominent voice in Republican politics.

But his family wasn’t always Republican. And that is but one of five lesser-known facts about Pat Robertson.

1. Robertson’s Father was a Democrat Congressman and U.S. Senator

Robertson was born on March 22, 1930, in Lexington, Virginia, to father Absalom Willis Robertson. The senior Robertson, a committed Baptist, was also a seven-term Democrat congressman from Virginia who later served as a U.S. Senator from 1946 to 1966. Absalom Robertson served in public office for more than 50 years, being first elected as a Democrat to the Virginia Senate in 1915.

Pat Robertson looks at a portrait of his father in his home in Washington, DC.. Robertson was the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and tried to run for presidency of the United States in 1987. (Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images)

The elder Robertson was a big supporter of liberal Democrat Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 and 1956 presidential contests, a move that angered his fellow conservative Democrats in Virginia.

2. Robertson Earned a Law Degree from Yale

Pat didn’t start out life headed down a ministerial path. He graduated with honors from the Chattanooga, Tennessee, McCallie School, a military prep school, in 1946 before entering Washington and Lee College that same year where he graduated in 1950. His education was interrupted when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and ended up serving as the assistant adjutant of the First Marine Division in Korea.

From the Yale Law year book.

He was soon promoted to first lieutenant. But then came law school. Perhaps surprisingly, Robertson entered Yale Law School in 1955 and earned a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. According to the 1955 Yale Law Yearbook, his class was nicknamed the “leisure class” due to its “habit of conspicuous consumption.”

3. Robertson was a Financial Analyst at W.R. Grace & Co in NYC

Still, just before entering New York Theological Seminary, Robertson was working as a financial analyst at the W.R. Grace & Co in New York City as he studied to take the bar exam. The famed broadcaster had a conversion to Christianity in 1957 and soon enough left his thoughts of high finance and the law behind.

4. Robertson Got His Theology Degree from a NYC Bible School

A life as a lawyer and Wall Street titan, though, was not in the cards for the young Pat Robertson, and from Yale, Robertson switched tracks and entered the New York Theological Seminary in 1959, where he earned his Master of Divinity degree.

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Robertson was finally beginning to realize his true calling as a man of God. Also during this period, he first began his efforts to found a Christian television network in Virginia.

5. Poured Out a Bottle of Courvoisier After His Conversion

Speaking of Robertson’s conversion to Christianity, after he converted and began to look toward dedicating his life to religion, he made several major changes to his life. In his autobiography, he noted that upon his conversion, he took down a painting of a nude woman that was hanging over his sofa and poured out his bottle of Courvoisier cognac. He then left his family for a month and moved into a Christian camp in Canada to complete his dedication to God.

Robertson died at the age of 93 on June 8, after decades of service to God and his efforts to make religion central to the Republican Party with his Christian Coalition. His wife, Dede, who was also a founding member of CBN, passed last year at 94. Robertson is survived by four children, 14 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren.

John Carney contributed to this report.

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