Melvin Ernest Trotter (May 16, 1870–September 11, 1940) was a former alcoholic who founded and directed the Grand Rapids, Michigan City Rescue Mission for more than forty years and became a leader in American fundamentalism during the first four decades of the twentieth century.
Mel Trotter was one of seven children born in Orangeville, Illinois to a bartender who drank “as much as he served.” In 1887, the family moved to Freeport, Illinois where Trotter became a barber and was shortly thereafter gambling and drinking heavily. Four years later in Pearl City, Iowa, Trotter married Lottie Fisher, who was horrified to discover that her husband was an alcoholic. Trotter later said, “I loathed the life I was living. I tried my level best, but it wasn’t in me.”
Trotter lost his job in Pearl City, and he and his wife moved to a more rural area in an attempt to help him stay sober. He lost another job and they both moved to Davenport, Iowa, where Mel tried his hand at selling insurance, a job he lost the day after his son was born.
Trotter began leaving home for weeks at a time, and when he returned after one period of drunkenness, he discovered his two-year-old dead.