James T. Draper, Jr.

James T. Draper, Jr.

James Thomas "Jimmy" Draper, Jr. (born October 10 ,1935), is a prominent figure in the theologically conservative Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. He was the SBC president from 1982-1984.

Beginning in 1979, religious conservatives began a decade-long process to gain control of the denomination from a more moderate element that had been in authority. Draper was elected denominational president by the convention delegates, known as messengers, for two one-year terms in 1982 and 1983. The president is restricted to two consecutive terms, but he may sit out a term and run thereafter. From 1991 to February 1, 2006, Draper headed the LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly known as the SBC Sunday School Board).

Early years and education

Draper was born to a Baptist minister, James T. Draper, Sr. (1913-1966), and the former Lois Jeanne Keeling (1912-1997) in Hartford near Fort Smith in south Sebastian County in western Arkansas. The senior Draper was pastoring in Hartford at the time Draper, Jr., was born. The Drapers moved about in the ministry. Draper graduated from Millby High School in Houston in 1953. He thereafter received a bachelor of arts degree from Baylor University in Waco in 1957. He obtained a bachelor's degree in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in 1961. In 1973, the seminary upgraded Draper's credentials to master's degree in theology because of an overhaul of the curriculum.

Draper and his family have had a long connection with Southwestern Seminary. His grandfather was in the first seminary class in 1910, and his father, brother, and son-in-law all obtained theology degrees from Southwestern.

Draper is a former chairman of the Southwestern trustees. He and his fellow fundamentalists gained control of the seminary during a struggle waged in the Southern Baptist Convention throughout the 1980s. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, scores of Southern Baptist moderates left the SBC and formed new seminaries and other institutions, including a theological seminary affiliated with Baylor University (the original home of Southwestern). Many of the moderates also joined the new Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

At the time of his death, the senior Draper was pastoring in Warren, the seat of Bradley County in southern Arkansas. The senior Drapers are hence interred in Warren.

Pastoring seven churches

Draper has pastored in Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. He pastored in (1) Bryan, (2) Iredell in Bosque County, (3) Tyler, and (4) San Antonio, Texas, between 1956 and 1965. He then accepted the pastorate of the Red Bridge Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. After five years, he left Kansas City in 1970 for First Southern Baptist of Del City, a community within Oklahoma County and part of the Oklahoma City metroplex.

Draper left Del City in 1974 to return to Texas. He became associate pastor at First Baptist of Dallas, then the largest Baptist congregation in the world, whose members included the evangelist Billy Graham. He was being groomed to succeed the legendary W.A. Criswell as pastor. However, Draper concluded, correctly as it turned out, that Criswell was not yet ready to retire. So, in 1975, Draper accepted the pastorate of the large First Baptist of Euless, a suburban community near Fort Worth in Tarrant County.

Four honorary degrees

Draper has received honorary degrees from: Howard Payne University in Brownwood in Brown County in central Texas, Dallas Baptist University, California Baptist University in Riverside, and Campbell University in Buies Creek in Harnett County in central North Carolina. Draper has no earned doctorate and avoids use of the term "Dr." However, many address him accordingly because of the four honorary degrees.

The LifeWay years

Draper left Euless after sixteen years to assume the presidency of LifeWay; this required his relocation to the SBC national headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. Wayne L. DuBose, currently the pastor of First Baptist of Minden, the seat of Webster Parish, in northwestern Louisiana, headed the search committee which initially tapped Draper for the position. At first, Draper declined the invitation on the grounds that his strength lay in pastoring, rather than administration. DuBose persisted, and Draper accepted.

LIfeWay is among the largest distributors of Christian literature and services in the world, with more than 135 retail outlets throughout the United States, but LifeWay sells worldwide. The outlets are mostly in larger cities. Under Draper, LifeWay broadened its offerings and promoted sales more aggressively. "We have a great group of employees. I freed them up to work and tried not to restrict their creativity," Draper said. The Drapers lived in Brentwood during that period of time.

Draper explained his retirement from LifeWay after almost fifteen years in the position: "Retirement from an administrative position in today’s world may sometimes be construed as a departure from labor altogether. In no way is this my intention. As a minister, I will never retire. I cannot retire from ordination, the call to preach or the compulsion of the Holy Spirit to work and witness as a Christian minister.”

Thom S. Rainer, (born 1955) was named to succeed Draper as LifeWay president. Rainer had been the dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Draper the author

Draper is also the author of more than twenty-five Christian books, including a history of LifeWay Resources. He has traveled in thirty-three countries to lead evangelistic services and activities as well as conferences and meetings with missionaries and Christian leaders in those countries.

Some of Draper's books include:

"Authority: The Critical Issues for Southern Baptists" (1984)

"We Believe: Living in the Light of God's Truth" (2004)

"Biblical Authority: The Critical Issue for the Body of Christ" (2001)

"Every Christian a Minister: Finding Joy and Fulfillment in Serving God" (also 2001).

Draper today

Draper has also been a trustee of the Southern Baptist Annuity Board, which handles the retirement investments of pastors and SBC employees, and the vice president and president of the executive board of the Tarrant County Baptist Association.

Draper is married to the former Carol Ann Floyd, who was born in San Antonio in 1937 and grew up in Lake Jackson. They reside in Colleyville in northeastern Tarrant County.

They have three children. Son James Randall Draper (born 1957) is in jewelry sales and is a lay preacher at their church, Fellowship Church of Grapvine. Younger son Bailey Ray Draper (born 1960), is a home builder. He recently built his parents' new home. Daughter Terri Jean Wilkinson (born 1961) is the wife of Michael Don Wilkinson (born ca. 1963), former pastor of singles at Central Baptist of Bryan and currently serving as pastor to young and median adults at First Baptist Rockwall. Coincidentally, the Drapers' first pastorate was also in Bryan but not at the same church that their son-in-law pastors.












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