Pastors' Memoirs

James Elmore Brown, 1896-1988

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"On the 31st of July, 1896, I made my appearance to change the world for my parents, Albert and Harriet Bliss Brown." Thus begins the autobiography of James Elmore Brown who influenced and changed the world for many throughout his lifetime. He was born and raised in Lynn, Massachusetts, and attended public schools there until his college years. Influenced by Bishop Edwin Hughes, he enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. After graduation in 1921, he entered the School of Theology at Boston University from where he received both his Bachelor and Master of Theology degrees. His Doctorate of Theology was awarded from the International Seminary in Orlando, Florida in 1981, and how he loved the title that degree gave him! He was ordained elder in 1922 and was a member of the New England conference until 1949 when he transferred to Virginia.

Besides his numerous charges in New England, he was president of the conference Board of Education and a member of the Massachusetts Council of Churches. From 1944 to 1948 he was the chaplain of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Throughout the years he had opportunity to offer prayer also in the Massachusetts Senate, the Senate and House of Delegates of Virginia as well as the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States. He felt this might be a unique record.

The transfer to the Virginia conference began a new chapter. His appointments included Chester, Chesterfield Heights in Norfolk, Laurel Street in Richmond, High Street in Petersburg, St. John's in Staunton, and Oakland in Richmond. Although he officially re- tired in 1965, he continued influencing others by supplying pulpits, teaching, writing, and helping with the establishment of the Ashland District of the Virginia conference. He became the co-founder and first president of the Historical Society of that district. His great interest in religious education led him to develop leadership training courses for church school workers which he taught throughout Virginia. His first book, The Struggle for Trained Teachers, written as his Master's thesis, was published by the General Board of Education of the Methodist Church because of its value to Christian education.

While he was cataloging the papers of Bishop Paul Neff Garber who had been a longtime friend, it was suggested that, since he knew so much about Garber, he should write a book about him. The result was his second book, Paul Neff Garber: A Bishop of Destiny. In 1977, Elmore and his wife, Marion, entered The Hermitage in Richmond where they both were active and influential participants in the life there. Elmore was always the minister -conducting chapel services, communion services, providing weekly programs for those in the Via Health Care Center, serving on committees, as well as establishing programs and activities for1he Home. He was co-founder of the Men's Brotherhood, chaired the Residents' Council and the Religious Activities Committee, sang in the men's chorus and was drummer for the Rythmaires. After his wife of 58 years died, he wrote a third book, Marion Reid Brown, Her Philosophy of Life, as a tribute to her many creative writing and artistic talents.

Following the suggestion that he write of his own life, One of the Brown Boys came about as a review and an evaluation of more than nine decades of experiences as well as a record for the family. Elmore's final project was the creation of an annual lecture to be held at The Hermitage for the promotion and enhancement of the spiritual, cultural, and social well-being of the residents. His financial gift has helped to establish an endowment fund for the continuance of the lecture series. His last day matched his life -,- active and busy. He died August 17, 1988. A memorial service of celebration for Elmore's life and ministry was held at Ginter Park United Methodist Church, Richmond, August 21, 1988. Family members who survive him are Mrs. Joyce B. Soto of Chester, Virginia; Mrs. Diane B. Higgins of Richmond; five grand- daughters and four great-grandsons.

-Joyce Brown

 

 

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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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