James William Cox, a renowned homiletics professor who taught at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) for more than four decades, died Feb. 21 in Louisville, Ky., at 93.
Born in Kingston, Tenn., on Jan. 18, 1923, Cox trained generations of pastors and wrote several notable books on preaching. He joined the faculty in 1959 as professor of Christian preaching and in 1981 became the first occupant of the Victor and Louise Lester Chair of Christian Preaching. He retired in 1993 and served as a senior professor until his death.
James W. Cox
“Dr. James Cox was one of the greatest scholars of preaching of the past century. His knowledge of homiletics and the history of preaching was unsurpassed,” said SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. “He was also a Christian gentleman who was always ready with a kind word and a faculty member who warmly encouraged his colleagues. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his faithful wife of so many years, Patricia, and the Cox family.”
Cox earned both his M.Div. (1947) and his Ph.D. (1953) at SBTS. He graduated with his bachelor’s from Carson-Newman College (1944). During his tenure at Southern, Cox was a visiting lecturer at Princeton Theological Seminary, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary (now called Virginia Theological Seminary). He was also a regular interim pastor and had numerous pulpit supply pastorates during his time as a seminary professor.
Before teaching at SBTS, Cox was the founding pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., and served as pastor at Nance’s Grove Baptist Church in New Market, Tenn., and Central Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tenn. He wrote several books, including Surprised by God and A Guide to Biblical Preaching, and contributed to several others. Cox edited numerous academic papers and served intermittently as a member of the editorial board at the Review & Expositor. He had numerous stints in academic study throughout his tenure, including Harvard University, the University of Zurich and Princeton Theological Seminary.
At his death, Cox was a member of Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, where he was a longtime Sunday School teacher.
During a Feb. 23 chapel service, Matthew J. Hall, vice president for academic services, described Cox as a “hero and giant of the Southern Seminary family” and asked for prayers for his family.
“There has been no other member of this faculty who has had more of a shaping influence on American preaching in the whole tenure of this institution, and I would include in that even John Broadus,” Hall said.
Cox is survived by his wife of 64 years, Patricia Parrent Cox; two sons, David and Kenneth; and four grandchildren.
Cox’s life will be celebrated Saturday, Feb. 27, 2 p.m. at Broadway Baptist Church, 4000 Brownsboro Road, with burial to follow at one of the seminary’s plots in Cave Hill Cemetery, an honor given to retired professors. Visitation will be Friday, Feb. 26, 4-7 p.m. at Pearson Funeral Home, 149 Breckenridge Lane.
Expressions of sympathy may be made to Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville or to Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Annie Corser and Andrew J.W. Smith write for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)