In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Robert “Bob” Holifield, 1931-2023

Robert “Bob” Holifield, 1931-2023
IMB Photo

Robert “Bob” Holifield, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Italy, died Sept. 5, 2023. He was 91.

Bob was born Oct. 12, 1931, in Soso, Mississippi, to the late Debs and Margie Holifield. He graduated from Soso High School in Soso, Mississippi, and received the Associate of Arts from Jacksonville College in Jacksonville, Mississippi, his bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and other advanced degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

He married Flora Dean Cole on May 31, 1953. He pastored several churches throughout Texas, Kentucky and Mississippi.

“On November 8, 1961, Mrs. William Ralph Davis, missionary to Nigeria, spoke in our church,” Bob shared while seeking missionary appointment. “After her stirring message on the challenge and need of missions, I was convinced that God had spoken to me and was calling me.”

He continued, “That night when I returned home I asked Flora how she felt about foreign missions. She assured me that she had surrendered her life to God’s will and that she was willing and ready to go. After discussing the matter thoroughly, we got on our knees and, feeling the certainty of God calling us, surrendered to His call to be foreign missionaries.”

In 1962, the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed Bob and Flora missionaries to Italy. He served as a Southern Baptist missionary in Italy for 34 years as pastor, language instructor, administrator, liaison with the Italian Baptist Conference, evangelism program developer and a multitude of other positions as needed.

He was a published author, who wrote several instructional and devotional articles for Italian and American publications. After retiring in 1996, he served as a deacon and mentor at Calvary Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

He is survived by his loving wife of 70 years, Flora Cole Holifield of Hattiesburg, Mississippi; son, Rev. John Nathanael Holifield of Clinton, Mississippi; daughters, Mary Clark (Randy) of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Jane Cockrell (John) of Pass Christian, Mississippi, and Martha Carver (Mark) of Maryville, Tennessee; 11 grandchildren; and 16 great grandchildren.

A funeral service was held September 8, at Calvary Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Read an obituary here.