Robert Cooke Buckner, Baptist minister and founder of Buckner Baptist Children's Home, son of Rev. Daniel and Mary (Hampton) Buckner, was born on January 3, 1833, in Madisonville, Tennessee. He attended Somerset Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee, and Georgetown College in Kentucky. He was ordained a Baptist minister at the age of seventeen. He pastored churches in Albany, Owensboro, and Salvisa, Kentucky, before moving to Paris, Texas, in 1859. While in Albany, he married Vienna Long, on June 7, 1854. The couple had seven children.
For fourteen years after his arrival in Texas, Buckner was pastor of the Paris Baptist Church. During his last year in Paris, he began a newspaper, the Religious Messenger, the title of which was later changed to Texas Baptist (see TEXAS BAPTIST AND HERALD). He continued to edit the paper until he sold his interest in it in 1883. In 1875 he moved to Dallas, where he began to work toward the establishment of a Baptist orphanage. He secured the approval of the Baptist General Association for Buckner Orphans Home, wrote its original charter, and opened the home in 1879 with three children. He served as president and general manager of the home until his death in 1919, when an estimated 12,000 children had been residents at the home. In 1900 Buckner was part of a group of prominent Baptists, both Black and White, who founded the Dickson Colored Orphanage in Gilmer, Upshur County. Buckner served as president of the board of that home from 1900 to 1905 and continued as a member of the board for several years thereafter.
In addition to his activities on behalf of orphans, Buckner was president of the Baptist General Association of Texas for twenty years and helped in founding Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium (now Baylor University Medical Center), which he served from 1904 to 1907 as president of the board. He was a trustee of Baylor University, a member of the National Prison Congress, and frequently a delegate to the national Convention for Charities and Corrections. He was an enthusiastic Mason and a member of Hella Temple of the Shrine. "Father" Buckner, as he was called by thousands young and old, died in Dallas on April 9, 1919, and was buried in Grove Hill Cemetery.