LOUISVILLE, Ky. – John Drayton Williams Watts, a former professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), died July 21 near his home in Penney Farms, Fla. He was 92.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., the seminary’s president, said, “John D.W. Watts was both an Old Testament scholar and the son of an Old Testament scholar, and the Watts family represents at least two generations of seminary professors within the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Dr. Watts played a significant role in several Baptist institutions and was a member of the Southern Seminary faculty for many years,” Mohler said.
Born in 1921 in Laurens, S.C., Watts spent his childhood in Palestine with his missionary parents and his youth in New Orleans, where his father served on the faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 1946, Watts married Winifred Lee Williams. The two served with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) from 1948-70 and from 1972-75. Watts was professor of Old Testament at International Baptist Theological Seminary in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, where he also served as president from 1963-69.
Watts then served on the faculty of Serampore College in Serampore, India, (1972-75), Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., (1976-81) and Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., (1981-95).
Watts earned a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College and a bachelor of divinity and doctor of theology degrees from Southern Seminary. He was the Old Testament editor of the Word Biblical Commentary.
His books included Vision and Prophecy in Amos (1958; revised 1996), Studying the Book of Amos (1966), Basic Patterns in Old Testament Religion (1971) and How We Got the Bible (2011), with contributions to the Broadman Bible Commentary (1970-72) and several commentaries on Old Testament books.
He was honored with two festschrift collections of essays by colleagues and students, Forming Prophetic Literature: Essays on Isaiah and the Twelve (ed. J.W. Watts and P.R. House, 1996) and a special issue of Perspectives in Religious Studies (ed. P.J. Scalise, 2008).
In 1995, he retired to Penney Farms, Fla., where he lived with his wife until her death in 2011.
Watts is survived by his children, Cheryl, Reid, Clare and Jim, as well as seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. The family will have a memorial service at the Penney Farms Retirement Community Oct. 14, and they request donations of sympathy be made to Heifer International.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by the communications staff of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)