Roy Wilhelm is described by his biographers within these pages as quiet and gentle, but iron-willed. Relative to some of his contemporaries in the early Baha’i community of North America, his is a life perhaps less explored and examined so far by historians. This may be in part because many of the services he rendered were of a behind-the-scenes or administrative nature. What becomes abundantly clear when reading about the life of this brilliant and steadfast individual, however, is that he earned the unwavering trust of both ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi for his tireless and selfless devotion to the Cause.
Wilhelm’s life story is a rich and varied one that takes the reader from the coffee farms of Costa Rica to Wall Street to the picturesque environs of the properties that remain associated with his life and the Faith he held so dearly. He was a shrewd businessman with a keen intellect and a wide range of interests. The extent of his services to the Faith and the establishment of its institutions in North America is hard to overstate. A pivotal figure in laying the groundwork for the establishment of the Baha’i Administrative Order, Roy was also a dynamic and effective teacher of the Faith who shared its message with many people, including Martha Root and Curtis Kelsey. Shouldering massive responsibility for the well-being and functioning of the early American Baha’i community throughout the years of the first World War and the Great Depression, he was called upon time and time again by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and later Shoghi Effendi to rise to numerous roles and challenges. When one reads of his wisdom, discretion, and generosity, it is no surprise that the beloved Guardian described him as an “immovable pillar” and a “Herald of the Covenant,” and posthumously appointed him as a Hand of the Cause of God.