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Their distinguished careers were played to different tunes

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–One man held a state convention position that often meant filling multiple positions simultaneously. Another served churches bivocationally throughout his ministry career. A third served one church for 33 years.

What W.A. Bradshaw, James McCaleb and Bill James share is a gratitude for the training at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that helped shape their ministries.

After fulfilling a lifetime of faithful ministry, each was honored as a distinguished alumnus during the annual Southwestern school of church music award luncheon Feb. 18 at University Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas.

Bradshaw was called to music ministry in 1955 and had originally planned to attend another seminary. God had other plans for the native Louisianan, however, so Bradshaw and his wife, Shirley, came west instead of south. Earning his master of music from Southwestern in 1965, Bradshaw served as a music minister in five states until 1981. At that time, he began serving with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, often filling five positions at once under the official title of director of music and student ministries.

Benjamin Harlan, dean of the school of church music at Southwestern, said those who know Bradshaw testify to his love for his work.

“He loved his work so much he told often of awakening early because he was unable to sleep, he was so excited about what God was doing in his life,” Harlan said.

Bradshaw is still active even after his retirement Jan. 31. He has been serving as minister of music with First Baptist, Rio Rancho, N.M., since 1997.

Bradshaw was contemplative on accepting the honor: “If I could leave one word for someone starting out, it’s that we work for a great boss, it’s a marvelous life and you are working for a business that is going to last awhile.”

McCaleb, a native of Tennessee, used one form of service to assist in his service to the kingdom. McCaleb served in the South Pacific in World War II before returning to gain his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College in 1949 and a bachelor of music and master of religious education from Southwestern in 1953.

In 1956, he rejoined the Air Force, and began serving as a music director in Colorado while serving the nation in Wyoming. Through his retirement in 1973, he worked for the country and the kingdom simultaneously.

That career as a bivocational minister of music placed a passion in McCaleb’s life for those who serve in similar church situations. That passion led to the publication of “Church Music RFD,” a volume for bivocational music leaders. McCaleb also established a trust to fund music workshops for bivocational music ministers.

McCaleb, like Bradshaw, is not taking retirement easy. “I’ll retire when Satan retires,” McCaleb said.

“Southwestern is ‘thee’ seminary,” he added. “Through the years, it has been a big plus for me.”

For James, God’s call to music ministry meant a lifetime with a single community of faith. James recently retired after 33 years of service with Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.

While at Wilshire, James led a music program for all ages, with 400 to 500 participants.

And while James’ main service has been to Wilshire, it has not been his only imprint on music ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention.

James, who holds a bachelor’s from Lamar University and earned a master of music in 1962 from Southwestern, is a charter member of The CenturyMen, a singing group of Baptist music ministers. He has also served on the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference.

James has been especially supportive of the seminary, serving on the advisory council and as the only music school alumnus ever to serve as president of the national alumni association.

Since his retirement, James is helping to coordinate the recording of a new children’s choir book.

Throughout his ministry, James credits Southwestern with continued growth in his life. “This seminary has shaped my life through many different ways through the years, and I am very grateful,” he said.

    About the Author

  • Bryan Murley