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James Staples, former Ariz. editor & Calif. college president, dies

DALLAS (BP)–James R. Staples, former Arizona Southern Baptist leader and retired president of California Baptist University, died Jan. 3 in Dallas, two days before his 85th birthday.

Staples served two stints (1960-62, 1970) as editor of the Baptist Beacon, newsjournal of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. (The Beacon was succeeded by Portraits magazine in 1997.)

In an early editorial, he wrote, “Everyone likes a challenge. One of the greatest, if not the greatest challenge in all of Baptist life, is the work of an editor…. It is a task that cannot be accepted lightly since so many lives are touched and influenced by this medium.”

Prior to joining the state convention staff in 1960, Staples served as pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church for 10 years. During that time, the church began an elementary school, started seven missions, constructed three buildings and remodeled the auditorium.

Between stints with the Baptist Beacon, Staples was executive vice president of Grand Canyon College (now University).

He returned to higher education in 1970 to become the third president of California Baptist College (now University), a post he held until his retirement in 1984. Subsequently he served as the institution’s first chancellor for six years.

Under Staples’ leadership, the California college completed construction of two student housing apartment buildings and the Wallace Book of Life Building; established a discipleship program in the religion department and added several athletic programs. And in 1979, the college celebrated the burning of the $800,000 note for the purchase of the institution’s Riverside property in 1955.

An active denominational leader, Staples served two terms as president of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and was chairman of the state convention’s executive board for six years. He also served as a trustee for Grand Canyon College and on the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) and the former SBC Education Commission.

In retirement, Staples served as pastor of an English-language church in Germany and also was the founding pastor of Lake Elsinore Baptist Church in Lake Elsinore, Calif. He also led churches in Arkansas and Louisiana during his career.

A native of Piggott, Ark., Staples was a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, he earned a doctor of education degree from Arizona State University.

He was preceded in death by a son, A.J. He is survived by his wife, Elaine; daughter Renee; five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the A.J. Staples Room fund at California Baptist University.

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