By Melissa Barnhart
Phil and Kay Robertson, the patriarch and matriarch of A&E’s highest-rated reality show, “Duck Dynasty,” were guests on CBN’s “700 Club” on Wednesday to talk about their family’s success and to share how their faith in Jesus Christ saved their marriage, which is about to hit the 50-year milestone.
The motto of “faith, family and ducks,” is a running theme for the Robertson family, whose Duck Commander business in Monroe, La., is the backdrop for the reality television show that beat out American Idol with 9.6 million viewers during their hour-long season finale last month.
The show features Phil and Kay Robertson, Phil’s brother, Si, who’s a Vietnam veteran, and three of their four sons, Willie, Jason “Jase” and Jules “Jep,” and their wives and children, as well as a few of the Duck Commander employees. Everyone in the family has a role in the business, and the TV show follows the antics of the Robertson family as they navigate hunting season and familial relationships.
Before their family became millionaires and reality TV stars, Phil, a Louisiana native and former first-string quarterback at Louisiana Tech University, walked away from the game his senior year and handed off his position to Terry Bradshaw. He later completed his master’s degree in education, and in the midst of the ’60s, ended up leasing a bar in Junction City, Ark., where he was enveloped in the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.”
In their interview with Terry Meeuwsen of the “700 Club,” Kay spoke about how her marriage and family struggled for 10 years when Phil was leading a life filled with fighting and drinking. Kay was the first to be converted to Christianity – one year before her husband. And even though Phil had kicked her and their three sons out of their family’s home, she continued to stay in her marriage and pray for Phil’s salvation.
“My life was spiraling out of control in a hurry,” Phil said. “It’s literally what Jesus said, ‘from darkness to light.'” After he became a Christian, Phil gave up drinking and “with a clear head” went back to Louisiana with his family and bought a house on the river. He then started working as a commercial fisherman while he built his duck call business from the ground up.
Speaking at a May 5 benefit for the Prestonwood Pregnancy Center in Dallas, Texas, Willie, the Robertsons’ second-eldest son, said his father “hit rock bottom,” in Arkansas after he got into a fight with the bar’s owner who ended up in the hospital. “State troopers were searching for him, so he runs into the woods and lives in the woods for four months running from the law,” he said…Part of Phil’s mission today is to “try to make amends, and go forth and tell people about Jesus and what he’s done for us on the cross. I’ve repented, and I’m trying to get my generation to do the same thing.”
He told Meeuwsen that he noticed A&E’s production team was taking Jesus’ name out of the show when he gave the family’s dinnertime prayer. He later asked them why they were doing that, and they replied they didn’t want to offend their viewers.
During the next taping of the dinner scene, he prayed: “Father, thank you for the good food, thank you for our children, thank you for loving us and saving us. And I pray that you give these people that are filming us time to repent before you burn them for not using your name in a prayer.” That ended the battle and brought Jesus’ name back into the show.
Phil and Willie often speak at churches and civic groups across the country to talk about duck hunting, the founding fathers and the right to life. Phil is a staunch supporter of the pro-life movement; and Willie, who has three children, one of whom is an adopted son, said as a father he now understands how God’s love for his son, Jesus, is equal to his love for humanity.
Willie attended Harding University in Searcy, Ark., and speaks to college students about money and fame, and how neither can bring the happiness that’s found in the Gospel and salvation through Jesus Christ. He tells students that the most unhappy people he meets are those who have money and fame but are void of a relationship with the Lord.
Both Kay and her brother-in-law, Si, will be releasing new books this fall, along with a Duck Commander Devotional. Kay’s book might delve into issues she touched on during her interview with CBN’s Meeuwsen, when she spoke about her grandmother’s influence on her life, and how she became a Christian when she was a young mother of three boys, living in a tumultuous marriage.
The fourth season of “Duck Dynasty” is expected to start this fall and will include their eldest son, Alan, a preacher, who has been absent from the first three seasons of the show. Phil’s book, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander was released on May 7.