With additional reporting by Joe Westbury, managing editor
PALMETTO — Dr. James H. “Jim” Griffith, 89, executive director emeritus of the Georgia Baptist Convention, died on Thursday, May 7, at Southwest Christian Hospice in Union City. He had been admitted to the facility on Wednesday in failing health.
Griffith served the state convention in the top leadership role for 11 years from 1981 until 1992. At his retirement at the annual convention meeting in his native Macon he was lauded for being “people-oriented, Christ-centered, and Great Commission-focused.”
He was a graduate of Mercer University and Southeastern Seminary, having been awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree from Mercer and Doctor of Laws degree from Atlanta Law School.
Griffin had a successful career as a journalist, beginning as an office boy at the Macon Telegraph and working his way up through the ranks. His career there culminated with recognition as sports editor and a nationally syndicated columnist. He later served as a columnist for The Christian Index.
Prior to his executive leadership role he served for 24 years in various levels of denominational service. That included two terms as president of the state convention, two years as chairman of the state Executive Committee, and twice as first vice-president of the state convention.
In Southern Baptist life he serve twice on the Committee on Boards and for eight years as trustee of the Sunday School Board, now LifeWay Christian Resources.
He authored three books: Stepping Stones (1978), Sure You Can (1980), and From Pulpit to Pew, a compilation of humor columns published in The Christian Index (1981).
Griffith served as pastor of Beech Haven Baptist Church in Athens for 14 years as well as First Baptist Church of St. Simons Island, First Baptist Church of Gray, and Lakeside Baptist Church of North Myrtle Beach, SC.
He is survived by his wife, Mildred “Mimi” Scott Roads Griffith, originally of West Palm Beach, FL. Other survivors include daughters Doren Yeomans, Rosa Gardner and husband James, and Sunday Griffith; grandchild Stephanie Hudson; and brother Dr. Ben Griffith, Jr.
‘A wonderful encourager’
Joe Graham, GBC missionary who provides leadership in collegiate ministries, stated, “Dr. Griffith was the executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention when I began my service to Georgia Baptists as a campus minister in 1983. There has never been a question as to his love for his family, his love for Georgia Baptists, and his love for the Cooperative Program.
“He brought to his ministry the efficiency of a newspaper man, the heart of a pastor, and great joy in Christ.”
Dennis Rogers, who recently retired after 28 years of ministry as a state missionary, explained, “Dr. Griffith was a wonderful encourager for me when I first came to the state missions staff in 1987. His humor and timely words made me feel welcome and that I belonged. Long after his retirement he always had a kind and affirming word for my wife and me whenever we were together. He was a true Georgia Baptist statesman.”
Bobby Boswell, GBC assistant executive director, added, “Dr. Griffith will be remembered as a leader devoted to cooperative missions causes. He was committed to the principle that more could be accomplished together than separately. He believed in and supported the Cooperative Program as the way for Georgia Baptists to do missions, evangelism, and ministry together.”
“Dr. Griffith and his devoted wife, Mimi, have been Georgia Baptist treasures for many years. As a young pastor in Carrollton, and a member of the Executive Committee, I had the privilege of serving on the Executive Director Search Committee that selected Dr. Griffith to be recommended to serve as our Executive Director,” remembered Griffith’s successor, J. Robert White.
“Then, as a member of the Administration Committee, having served with Dr. Garrison, it was a privilege to meet with our new executive director, Dr. Griffith, and the committee on a monthly basis. It was a joy to serve with Jim. He was a blessing to the work of the convention and navigated through some challenging situations with wisdom and in the spirit of Christ.”