Obituary: James Leo Garrett

James Leo Garrett Jr., distinguished professor of theology emeritus at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Feb. 5 in Nacogdoches. He was 94.

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James Leo Garrett Jr., distinguished professor of theology emeritus at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Feb. 5 in Nacogdoches. He was 94. Garrett was born Nov. 25, 1925, in Waco to James Leo Garrett Sr., an accounting professor at Baylor University, and Grace Hasseltine Jenkins Garrett. In 1935, he was baptized at Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco. In 1945, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English degree from Baylor University, where he was president of the centennial class. In 1948, he was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Southwestern Seminary and married fellow graduate Myrta Ann Latimer. He received a Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1949. Then he returned to Fort Worth to teach at Southwestern Seminary, as well as study toward a Doctor of Theology degree, which he completed in 1954. He wrote his dissertation on the theology of Baptist scholar and former Southwestern Seminary professor W.T. Conner. While a student at Southwestern Seminary, Garrett was pastor of three Baptist churches. In 1950, Garrett attended his first Baptist World Alliance meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, beginning a 50-year association with the world’s largest organization of Baptist churches. In 1962, as part of a faculty panel that invited Martin Luther King Jr. to lecture at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., Garrett and his colleagues rejected intense pressure for the invitation to be withdrawn. In 1965, Garrett attended the fourth and final session of the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church as a guest of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. One year later, he was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Harvard University, where he wrote his dissertation on American Protestants’ writings on Roman Catholicism between the two Vatican councils. In 1967, Garrett served as coordinator of the first Conference on the Concept of the Believers’ Church, an international gathering in Louisville, Ky. In 1968, he studied postgraduate courses at the University of Oxford (Regent’s Park College) in England and was appointed chairman of the Study Commission on Cooperative Christianity for the Baptist World Alliance. In 1973, he was named director of J.M. Dawson Studies in Church-State and a professor of religion at Baylor, later becoming the Simon M. and Ethel Bunn Professor of Church-State Studies. In 2008, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Baylor. In his lengthy academic career, Garrett taught at Southwestern Seminary (1949–59, 1979–97), Southern Seminary (1959–73) and Baylor University (1973–79). He was a visiting professor at Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary and also lectured in Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, the Ukraine, and Romania, and at various other schools in the United States. Garrett and his wife, Myrta, received Southwestern Seminary’s L.R. Scarborough Award in 2007. He was the writer, co-author, editor or co-editor of more than 130 published works, including his two-volume Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical and Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study. Garrett was preceded in death by his wife, Myrta, in 2015. He is survived by three sons, James Leo Garrett III, Robert T. Garrett and Paul L. Garrett; four grandsons; and three great-grandchildren.

 


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