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Landes, former Texas executive, college president, dies at 84

DALLAS (BP)–Texas Baptists are still moving in the direction that James H. Landes provided, speakers said Jan. 1 at the funeral of the “servant minister” who served as Baptist General Convention of Texas executive director from 1974-83.

“James Landes gave his life to please God and has now heard his Savior say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,'” said Brian Harbour, pastor of First Baptist Church, Richardson, Texas, where Landes served before being elected BGCT executive director.

“His greatest accomplishment was not what he did as pastor and administrator, but the influence of his own personal walk with Jesus,” Harbour said of Landes who died at age 84 Dec. 28 in Waco, Texas, where he had lived since becoming distinguished professor of religion at Baylor University following retirement at age 70.

Applying Landes’ ministry as Texas Baptist administrator, educator and pastor to Jesus’ parable of the talents, Harbour said Landes took the talents God gave him and developed them to the fullest.

Landes, former president of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, was described as an encourager and Christian mentor of hundreds of pastors and other Christian leaders serving around the world.

William M. Pinson Jr., who succeeded Landes as BGCT executive director, described his predecessor as “a servant minister” who epitomized Mark 10:43.

“God provided him a servant spirit, and he nourished that spirit all his life,” Pinson said.

He said Landes distinguished himself as a Christian gentleman, evangelist, pastor, educator, administrator, friend of many and a courageous family man who, with his wife, Irene, helped lead their physically challenged daughter, Ruth Pitts, to become a distinguished musician and teacher.

Darold Morgan, president emeritus of the Southern Baptist Annuity Board, said, “Like second breath to James Landes was his love of soul freedom and Baptist heritage.”

Asking the hundreds of people at the funeral to reflect on their personal memories of Landes, Morgan said, “You realize that you are a much better person because of James Landes.”

Jimmy Allen, former president of the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission, said Landes was “an encourager,” who encouraged not only people, but strategies and ideas, including the Urban Strategy Council which led Texas Baptists to do greater mission work in the cities of Texas.

Landes was a pastor for 30 years before becoming Texas Baptist executive director. Besides serving at First Baptist Church, Richardson, he was pastor of First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, for 18 years and pastor of four other Texas churches, First Baptist, Floyd; First Baptist, Dial; First Baptist, Eagle Lake; and Central Baptist, Bryan; and First Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala.

Baptists honored him by electing him to many key positions
including helping to rewrite the Baptist Faith and Message. While serving as a pastor, he was chairman of the 214-member BGCT executive board; president of the BGCT; first vice president of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention; preacher for the annual meeting of the SBC; and trustee for many agencies, boards and institutions.

A native of Lewisville, Ark., Landes earned the bachelor of
science degree from Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Ark., and the master of theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth. Five universities awarded him honorary degrees.

Landes died on the 59th anniversary of his marriage to the former Irene Pearson of Fayetteville, Ark.

Besides his wife and daughter, Landes is survived by two
grandsons, Jimmy Pitts, a Ph.D. student in piano performance at the University of North Texas, and Dallas physician Bill Pitts.

Memorials may be made to the James H. Landes Christian Education Fund in care of First Baptist Church, Richardson, P.O. Box 832427, Richardson, TX 75083-2427.

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  • Orville Scott