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Application Status: CLOSED

The application period for the 2025 Rev. Robert J. Matthews Legacy Scholarship will open Fall 2024.


Rev. Robert J. Matthews

Rev. Robert J. Matthews is a dynamic musician, preacher and teacher and has become a Memphis icon. His career in music and ministry spans over six decades.


The strong urge to lead has always existed within Rev. Matthews. As a child, he attended Weaver Elementary School and often found himself in various leadership roles. He was elected "Mr. Weaver" as early as second grade. 


He began his musical career at age six when he began taking piano lessons. He continued his love for music at Geeter High School, where he became actively involved in many of the activities of the school. Academics were first and extracurricular activities remained secondary. However, his love for music and the God-given talent within always moved forward. He graduated with honors in 1965 and was determined to further his education. 


His college career began in the fall of 1965 at LeMoyne-Owen College. However, he transferred the following semester to AM&N College of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which is now known as The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). He chose Vocal Music and English as his majors. While a student there, he became involved with the Vesper Choir and was given the opportunity to travel and tour the west coast with the Choir. He also became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., where he served as Correspondence Secretary and Dean of Pledges for two years. During his junior year, he was elected President of the Student Government Association and graduated with honors, Magna Cum Laude, on June 2, 1969. 


Rev. Matthews began his teaching career with Memphis City Schools in 1969 at Mitchell and Wooddale High Schools. He received his Master of Education Administration and Supervision from Memphis State University on December 20, 1974; 


Rev. Matthews accepted the call to ministry in 1976 and served as Pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Olive Branch, MS. He served as a Congressional Assistant from September 1977 to August 1978. He joined the the staff of Fairley High School in 1979 as Director of the Choir, Band and Music Theory. Under his leadership, Fairley High School became one of the premier high school choirs in the city participating in competitions, concerts and more.  During his tenure, several of his students received music scholarships to various colleges and universities at his recommendation, including Lane College, Lemoyne-Owen College, Philander Smith College, Texas College, Mississippi Valley State University, Tennessee State University and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. His perseverance, commitment, and dedication are commendable, to say the least, in a society that refers to our youth as the "lost generation" or "generation X". Because of his long-standing reputation of being fun-loving, caring, and compassionate, many of the youth in the Memphis area longed to be a part of his high school gospel choir. 


In October of 1990, Rev. Matthews was lead by the Holy Spirit to accept his present assignment as pastor of New Hope Baptist Church. Since his arrival, New Hope has grown by leaps and bounds-numerically and more importantly, spiritually. He has used his innovative style to revitalize existing ministries and his God-given wisdom to implement new ones. His love for the Lord's people continues to be the driving force that motivates him to labor tirelessly in the "vineyard". His spirit of commitment and dedication to excellence is evident in every aspect of his ministry. Like Paul, Pastor Matthews is pressing "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." His unique and charismatic demeanor is truly an asset to New Hope and the surrounding community. 

Rev. Matthews retired from Fairley High School in May of 2003, where he had diligently worked to effect a change in the lives of underprivileged, deprived and other youth and young adults across this city, many of whom found favor in him and chose to make him their pastor.

Rev. Matthews has done postgraduate studies at Trevecca Nazarene College in Nashville, Tennessee. His studies in religion and theology at Tennessee Baptist School of Religion (Bachelor of Theology), Mid-America Theology Seminary and Memphis Theological Seminary have attributed to his growth and development as a preacher/pastor. He received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Saint Thomas Christian University in April 2016. 

It is evident that Rev. Matthews is blessed. His wife, Georgia and their children are supportive of his leadership in the Memphis community. 

Scholarship Criteria

The application period is now closed.

Eligible applicants should:

  • be a minority, graduating senior from a public school (traditional or charter) in Memphis

  • plan to attend a 4 year institution

  • priority given to applicants planning to pursue a career in education or music

The Rev. Robert J. Matthews Legacy Scholarship was established in 2023 by Janelle Douglas, Sonya Hunt, James Jones Jr., Robby Matthews, Neko Sharkey and Yvette Williams.


Donors of the Rev. Robert J. Matthews Legacy Scholarship are recognized as Friends of RJM.


Donation levels:

Supporter: $0-$99

Affiliate: $100-$249

Ambassador: $250-$499

Champion: $500-$999

Legacy Builder: $1000 or more

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