“I was sitting in Dr. Margarette Sathers’ Humanities class when she told me to follow my heart and to be passionate about my calling. I changed my major from Electrical Engineering to Humanities and have not regretted that decision.”

At his freshman orientation at CBC in 1987, Bartholomew Orr met Valerie Bates, who was serving as a sophomore Student Ambassador. They quickly became friends and began dating. When Bartholomew was a 19-year-old sophomore, he became the pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church, which was at that time a small, 66-member congregation in Southaven, MS. In 1990, Valerie graduated as a member of the very last graduating class of Christian Brothers College — and she and Bartholomew got married. He graduated with a BA in Humanities in 1991 as a member of the very first graduating class of Christian Brothers University.

More than three decades later, Bartholomew and Valerie are still married and have been blessed with four sons and five grandchildren. During that time, Bartholomew has earned a Master of Divinity degree from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Union University. And he is still the pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church — which has grown under his leadership into one of the largest, predominantly Black megachurches in the U.S., with two locations and approximately 12,000 members. The ministry’s outreach also includes the support of satellite churches locally and in several African countries with mission work around the world.

As the pastor of a growing and vibrant church, Bartholomew is very connected with the community and takes many opportunities to serve and give back. He currently serves on the boards of Baptist Memorial Hospital and the Memphis Police Department Community Advisory Board. He also leads Mid-South Genesis Community Development Corporation, an organization committed to improving the community of Memphis through building stronger families and economic development. He has also served as a social counselor for the Department of Human Services.

“From board positions for local non-profits to food giveaways, gas giveaways, serving at homeless shelter, I’m constantly looking for more creative ways that I can change lives and make a difference,” he says.

Bartholomew had been honored by the Southaven Chamber of Commerce with its “Man of the Year” award in 2011, and by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi with its “Dan Maddox Man of the Year” in 2022. He also regularly serves as a conference speaker and has written a book entitled ORRdinary Lessons: Seven Principles for an Extraordinary Life, which was published in 2020.

Brother Theodore mentioned in my orientation that CBU would give us a hand and a halo (a skill but also values). I’m so grateful for what CBU instilled within me.