04/10/2017 9:08AM

Salty Roberts, founder of Race Track Chaplaincy of America, dies at 85


H.W. Salty Roberts, the founder of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, died Friday morning at a hospice near his home in Cooper City, Fla., according to the organization. Roberts was 85.

Roberts, a former exercise rider at Florida tracks, officially founded the RTCA in 1972, several years after receiving an official designation as the “chaplain of Gulfstream Racetrack” from track officials. The RTCA now supports 43 ministers at 36 racetracks and training centers in the U.S., and its representatives are present at nearly every major U.S. racetrack.

“Salty had a real burden on his heart for the people that he worked with,” said Pat Day, the retired Hall of Fame jockey who has credited ministers for helping him overcome substance abuse early in his career. “He eagerly shared that burden by establishing a ministry to serve them right where they worked and often lived – on the backside of racetracks.”

After establishing ministries at Florida tracks, Roberts contacted ministries throughout the U.S. to expand the chaplaincy program to tracks where Florida workers migrated. The RTCA eventually established programs supporting backstretch workers and its chaplains, including making funds available to workers enduring financial hardships and those struggling with substance-abuse problems.
Roberts is survived by his wife, Dallas, three sons and three daughters and nine grandchildren.

Roberts was the first winner of the Dogwood Dominion Award, which was created by Dogwood Stable founder Cot Campbell in 1993 to honor “an unsung hero in racing.”