Andrew J. Roberts was the son of Giles and Nancy Roberts, who moved from Mecklenburg County, VA, to rural Ross County, OH, soon after his birth. The Robertses were neighbors of Madison Hemings and his family. A. J. Roberts attended Wilberforce and Oberlin colleges and taught school for fourteen years in Ohio and Tennessee. In 1878 he married Ellen Hemings. Nine years later, with two young children (Frederick and Estelle), they left their home and families in Ross County to settle in Los Angeles.
Working first as a drayman, A. J. Roberts and a friend soon built up what became the Los Angeles Van, Truck and Storage Company. In the early 1900s Roberts opened the first black-owned mortuary in Los Angeles, in which his sons Frederick M. Roberts and William Giles Roberts were also associated. He was a founder of Tabernacle Baptist Church, was active in the National Urban League, and was described in an obituary as “one of California’s most progressive pioneer citizens.”