James Dillard (J.D.) Grant was honored in a celebration of his retirement from Fruitland Baptist Bible College (FBBC) on Tuesday, May 27. Grant’s association with the school began in 1970 when he came to the campus as a student.
Recalling how he was struggling to find the right school after submitting to God’s call on his life to pastoral ministry, Grant told the audience that when he first walked onto the campus of Fruitland, he knew it was where God wanted him.
He also expressed his gratitude for the role the institution has served in shaping who he is today.
“I felt the Spirit of God on this place that day,” Grant said. “I cannot say that I’ve given a lot to Fruitland, but I can say it’s given a lot to me.”
Grant retires after serving as a professor, vice-president of academic affairs and most recently as vice-president of development.
A graduate of FBBC, Grant continued his education completing his bachelor’s degree at Western Carolina University, earning a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of education degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Fruitland photo by Ben Tackett
J.D. Grant shares about his time at Fruitland Baptist Bible College. Grant, while retiring as vice president of development, plans to continue teaching part time. He has served on the Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Committees and as a trustee for Lifeway Christian Resources.
David Horton, president of FBBC, thanked Grant for his service while noting that Grant will continue to teach at the college.
Horton stated that he believed God has gifted Grant with the ability to touch people from across all areas of life.
“I admire the way you conduct yourself. I’ve watched how you interact with donors who had much and those that had very little,” Horton said. “But to your credit you treated all as if you were speaking to royalty.”
Horton noted that when he thinks of Grant his mind is drawn to 2 Kings 4:9, where the woman at Shunem said, upon serving the prophet Elisha, “I know that this is a holy man of God.”
Brian Davis, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) associate executive director-treasurer, reminded the gathering that the relationship between the BSC and FBBC is very strong, but has not always been so.
“Some of you may recall challenges in the [convention’s] relationship with Fruitland in the 1980s,” Davis said. “At times it even seemed that some convention leaders were working against Fruitland.”
He recalled how, after a series of decisions by the BSC’s executive committee and General Board, Fruitland supporters realized that the only way they could address these decisions would be on the floor of the BSC’s annual meeting.
“To address these issues would require a bold leader to step forward asking the messengers to direct the General Board, and its executive committee, to reconsider their actions,” Davis said “The individual who stepped forward was J.D. Grant.”
Davis said the process that followed has resulted in a change that continues to benefit FBBC and bless the students attending the school today. He also noted that the school continues to impact North Carolina Baptists in many positive ways.
“Many do not recognize that 20 percent of the churches in this state are served by Fruitland graduates. Many do not recognize that Fruitland graduates currently serve on our board of directors, as officers of the board and as officers of the convention,” Davis said. “Many do not recognize the impact that Fruitland has; but we do. It’s long overdue, but I want to thank J.D. Grant for his leadership nearly 30 years ago that continues to impact us today.”
A “friendly roast” was conducted by longtime friend and fellow professor, Greg Mathis. He shared several humorous anecdotes about Grant. However, he used the humor to draw the crowd to his main points.
“While you [J.D.] stand like King Saul, head and shoulders above us all, you remind us of King David, a man after God’s own heart,” Mathis said.
Gifts were presented by Horton and Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC’s executive director-treasurer. Prior to his presentation, Hollifield said he was thankful for FBBC’s commitment to remain faithful to God’s Word.
“I thank God for the strong stand upon His Word that Fruitland has taken through the years, and continues to take. Fruitland holds a special place in my heart as well,” Hollifield said.
He also noted that his travels take him across the state, preaching and worshipping in different churches nearly every week. As he travels, Hollifield said he comes in contact with former students and fellow pastors that know, love and appreciate Grant.
Hollifield presented an envelope representing a financial gift for Grant’s years of full-time service to FBBC that began in 1999.
Horton also presented several gifts, including a keepsake book of letters written to Grant, a limited edition silver lapel pin and a special gift purchased through the generous donations of students, faculty and staff.
Grant responded saying, “This all makes me sound better than I am, but I appreciate all that’s been said. Fruitland is so important and important for the Kingdom.”
Grant then shared how he first came to serve at FBBC, saying, “I was president of the [Fruitland] alumni. Dr. Alex Booth and I met to talk about strengthening the school [financially], and that’s how I came to begin my work with the school; Kenneth Ridings then brought me on full time.”
He expressed appreciation and quipped, “I may have been roasted, but I’m not done.” He concluded his remarks, saying, “I have a new determination to be the very best teacher in the classroom that I can be; [I] will take every opportunity God gives to serve Him.”
In addition to his service at FBBC, Grant has served numerous local churches across western North Carolina.