Bobbie Logan: A Man of Conviction
By “Jesse James” Rogers
I was blessed to grow up four houses down from my grandparents, Al and Bettie Rogers.
In the house behind them lived a man named Bobbie Logan.
For us, Bobbie wasn’t just any neighbor. We saw him often because, like my father Dan, he was an elder in the Royal Palm Beach Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
To his captors in the American government, Bobbie was a convict. The deeper truth is that he was an unbreakable man of conviction.
Bobbie wouldn’t call people by their name. Instead, he had nicknames for everyone. The first memory I have of Bobbie is of him using our restroom before leading the group to go out witnessing to neighbors. Behind the door, I could hear him singing “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”. I don’t know if he made that song up or if it’s an oldie that got stuck in his head, but either way, as far as Bobbie was concerned that became my brother Jeremy’s name from then on.
Me? He called me “Jesse James”.
As it turns out, Bobbie was the real outlaw. He had served 22 months in prison. Like many draft-era Jehovah’s Witnesses, his “crime” was refusing to go to war, since his faith prohibits him from taking lives.
Conscientious objection wasn’t practiced only by Americans, mind you. I still remember watching the 1991 documentary called Purple Triangles when it first came out. It told the story of the unwavering courage of the European Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hitler’s death camps that refused to be part of his war machine. Unlike Jews, gays, and other victims of the holocaust, Jehovah’s Witnesses were unique in that they were given the option to leave the camps and go back to regular life. All they had to do to go free was sign a document renouncing their faith. Much to the frustration of the SS, almost none of the Jehovah’s Witnesses did.
That probably sounds strange to most readers. But if you knew Bobbie, and the many friends just like him, you’d understand that level of faith. To his captors in the American government, Bobbie was a convict. The deeper truth is that he was an unbreakable man of conviction.
I don’t mean to glorify the JW organization’s teachings because I myself don’t endorse the religion for theological, sociological, and scientific reasons which I’m not going to elaborate on here. But to compartmentalize my complex set of feelings, I absolutely do love and admire many of the individuals that subscribe to the JW beliefs without reservation. Some of the kindest and most resilient people I’ve encountered have been Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet, even amongst a group of many compassionate, courageous souls, Bobbie and Helen stand out.
His time in prison wasn’t Bobbie’s worst ordeal or the most terrible injustice done to him. As a young factory worker, an industrial accident due to a negligent employer had mutilated both of his hands just as his family was getting started. On each hand, Bobbie had what looked a bit like two opposable thumbs, almost forming a kind of claw.
An incident like that today would lead to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, but things were different then. Judging by the humble neighborhood we lived in, Bobbie was robbed, going largely uncompensated for what happened to him.
Despite everything, you’d hardly even notice his injuries because of his larger-than-life personality. Never one to make excuses, he’d work over any challenger at the ping pong table, he “didn’t give two hoots and a piddledoogie who it was” (that was the sort of Bobbie-ism that one mourner remembered). He had a coupon for just about everything he’d buy. There wasn’t a hint of bitterness or self-pity in him. Bobbie was all joy, and love, and gratitude.
When others were going through times of pain, grief, and loneliness, he was there as steady as a rock for them to lean on. He always had an open door.
Unsurprisingly then, Bobbie had a great many friends come to mourn him at his service today. I remember his daughter Rhonda and her kids Jordan and Chelsea but didn’t know most of his family and friends.
I’ll respect the private grief of the mourners and I won’t share their images here. The exception is a few friends that Bobbie and I happened to share. My parents, Dan & Jackie Rogers, as well as Mike Smith who gave a beautiful tribute at the service, and his wife Linda Smith.
Jehovah’s Witnesses commonly call one another “brother” as freely as most might say “mister”. But the three of them — Bobbie, Mike, and Dan — really were as close as brothers, each one a strength to the others.
“They say you can’t go home again” my dad managed to comment, doing his best to keep a steady voice. “But today I feel like we did.”
It has been around 25 years since I left the JW organization and maybe 20 years since I’ve seen Bobbie, so I didn’t say anything at the event. But afterward, I texted dad and told him “Growing up, it didn’t occur to me how exceptional a man he really was. As a kid, whatever we encounter seems normal. It’s only as time goes by that it becomes clear that the kindness and generosity of spirit of people like Bobbie isn’t a thing to be taken for granted.”
“I couldn’t have said it better. That is so true,” replied dad.
His friends all believe in an interpretation of the Bible which promises they’ll see him again in the resurrection. I don’t believe in eternal life quite the way they envision it, but I write this precisely because I do believe there’s a kind of immortality to be found in the written word. And I believe a good man like Bobbie Logan deserves to be remembered.