On January 18, 2021, the world lost one of its great souls. Dr. James “Jim” Milton Pitts, former chaplain at Furman University. This book honoring Jim was conceived in conversations between Cecil Staton and John Adams shortly after Jim’s passing. Both thought it was important to convene a chorus of voices to celebrate his life and influence. Here you will find reflections from colleagues, academics, pastors, civil rights leaders, students, friends, and even those who shared Jim’s love of circuses and trains. There are many common themes, but collectively these memories, reflections, and essays portray a remarkable life invested in others through his subtle and sometimes not so subtle influences, which have changed lives and even the world. In these essays, we hope you will laugh, cry, and receive inspiration as you reflect on the enormous impact of Jim’s life.
Often, Jim would ask students visiting him in his office to “walk with me.” While that often meant a stroll across campus with Jim, it is also symbolic of Jim’s invitational approach to ministry and relationships. In a sense, we invite readers to walk with each of us as we reflect on the life of a unique friend who had such a profound influence. Thus Walk with Me is the main title of this book.
In Honor of James Milton Pitts
Jim looked at life with a sense of wonder. He enjoyed inviting others to wonder with him. It was that spirit of wonder and openness and invitation that created lasting, and often life-shaping, experiences for many people.
Jim modeled refreshing and constructive forms of Christian ministry that both inspired and encouraged so many of his colleagues to try to emulate.
Jim didn’t look for praise because the only applause that mattered to him was that which came from a pair of nail-pierced hands, followed by the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Jim was a “Baptist icon,” one who maintained a lifelong lover’s quarrel with that Protestant tradition.
—Bill J. Leonard
I’m grateful to have had the gift of walking with Jim.