Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robert E. Whitaker June 29, 1928 - May 3, 2012 Founder of Christian Publishing House Was Passionate about Faith

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robert E. Whitaker June 29, 1928 - May 3, 2012 Founder of Christian Publishing House Was Passionate about Faith

Article excerpt

Robert E. Whitaker didn't set out to establish a large, successful publication house of contemporary and classic Christian literature.

But when the former electrical sales representative became a born- again Christian in the early 1960s, he felt so passionate about his faith he began giving away copies of "The Cross and the Switchblade" by David Wilkerson as part of his mission to share the gospel with others.

After collecting and storing books in his garage, one thing led to another, and today, Whitaker House, based in New Kensington, distributes books and other products all over the world.

Mr. Whitaker, 83, who died Thursday at his home in Murrysville, not only built a major publishing house for Christian books, "he had a passion for bringing people to Jesus Christ," noted Joyce Hart, a literary agent in Wilkins who worked at Whitaker House for 11 years.

He and his sons, Robert Jr. and John, "helped make it into one of the premier Christian publishing houses," she said, noting that Whitaker House not only publishes bestselling fiction and nonfiction, but its sister company, Anchor Distributors, delivers thousands of other books and products from retailers around the globe. One of Whitaker House's first fiction books, James Byron Huggins' "Nightbringer," was named one of the top five Christian novels for 2004 by Library Journal.

"He was a great man to work for. So devout. I loved coming to work every day," said Mrs. Hart.

A graduate of Seneca Valley High School, Mr. Whitaker served in the Army in Germany immediately following World War II. He received an honorary doctorate of divinity degree from National Bible College and Seminary in Fort Washington, Md., and was ordained by the National Church of God in Washington, D.C.

His background in sales, as a manufacturer's representative for electrical products, helped him when he started Whitaker House, his wife, Mary, said.

"He found that if he bought books in quantity from other companies he could get a cheaper rate, and as he was giving them away, things snowballed. …

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