Henry, James Mathew


January 15, 1863 - October 11, 1921
James Mathew Henry was born near Newberry, Newberry County, South Carolina, January 15, 1863. He died in Ruston, La., October 11, 1921. His earthly pilgrim age marking the span of fifty-eight years, eight months and twenty-six days. Born of Lutheran parentage, he was converted and joined the Methodist Church when about twenty years of age.
The choice which he made at this time to affiliate with the Methodist Church was made through one of the hardest trials of his life, but with the firmness characteristic of the man through all his life, he stood for his faith and his convictions. About this time he felt the call to preach. In the days of his youth he left his home and literally worked his way through college, without financial aid, graduating from Newberry College and later attending the Biblical department of Vanderbilt University.
He came to Louisiana from Vanderbilt in the interim between Conferences, and was put in charge of the Lafourche Mission. From this time to the day of his death he was in uninterrupted service. A list of his appointments will indicate the variety and extent of his pastoral services throughout all these years:
He was appointed to the City Mission, Shreveport, 1890-91; served Carrollton Avenue Church, New Orleans, 1892-93; Moreau Street Church, New Orleans, 1894-95; New Iberia, 1896-98; appointed presiding elder of the Delhi District in 1899, continuing on this district, subsequently designated as the Monroe District, 1900-1902, making a quadrennium in that territory; served Algiers charge in 1903, returning as presiding elder to the Monroe District in 1904-1905; presiding elder of the Crowley District 1906-07; pastor First Church, Baton Rouge, 1908-09; presiding elder New Orleans District, 1910-13; pastor Trinity Church, Ruston, 1914-15; presiding elder Ruston District 1916-19; pastor Trinity Church, Ruston District, 1920-21. He was Ordained Deacon in 1892, and Elder in 1893.
Doctor Henry’s position as a leader in Conference affairs and in administration in the work of the Church stand out conspicuously in the varied positions held by him on boards and committees and places of special service. He was the first chairman of the Epworth League Board of the Louisiana Conference, 1895-97, and was retained on the Board during the next quadrennium. He was made a member of the Board of Trustees in 1900, and served on the Board until death. He became a member of the Board of Education in 1902, President of the Board in 1905, and served continuous until death. He was made President of the Legal Conference in 1914, and served as such until death. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Louisiana Methodist Orphanage since 1914. He served on the Board of Church Extension; President the of Board of Missions; President of the Historical Commission; Chairman of the Publishing Committee of the New Orleans Christian Advocate, and served on a number other boards and committees. He was a delegate to the General Conference of 1906. Centenary College, recognizing his distinguished service and ability, conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1909.
He was married to Miss Lillian Gibbs, of Monroe, La., October 15, 1907. His devoted wife and their two children, James and Margaret, remain to mourn his loss.
These items do not exhaust the record of Special services rendered by him to the Church and to the State, they only serve to indicate in outline the confidence placed in him by his brethren of the Conference and the effectiveness of his life and ministry.
It is difficult to put in words an adequate estimate of the worth of such a man as James M Henry. His influence upon individuals was great. He put the strength of his character into others; he made men stronger by his presence.
Some estimate of the outstanding characteristics of the man will come readily to the minds of all who knew him. He was a man of very definite purpose, never vacillating nor hasty in arriving at a decision. There was a certain poise in his mind and bearing, a strength of character that was the man himself. From first to last he exhibited firmness and clearness of mind.. When he gave himself to God and His Church he gave himself utterly, without reserve, leaving all else that he might be faithful to his high sense of duty. He never wavered in his faith or his allegiance to the work of the ministry. In his character there was blended great positive ness of mind with genuine humility. He was never self-assertive, and while holding his convictions with immovable purpose his estimate of himself was humble.
His earlier appointments scarcely supported him, but he worked on without complaint, taking what was sent and doing his best. It was inevitable that in the course of time he would find a place of his own in the Conference. This he did, and maintained end to the end a position of widespread influence in the Conference, both among the preachers and the charges he served.
Dr. Henry was a man of wide reading and extensive knowledge of affairs. In his travels and reading he acquired a very wide range of information. His interest in the movements of the world and the conditions of its peoples was keen, and he sought to obtain exact information about all the great concerns of the world in which we live and work. He was well-informed in the literature of theology and religion. He knew the great outstanding doctrines of our holy faith and was clear in his apprehension and statement of the truth in his own preaching. He was conspicuously reticent and modest about expressing himself. Not everyone knew the wide range of his knowledge and the accuracy of his information. But in a group of his friends, or of interested persons, he was always more than able to hold his own in informing conversation and appreciation of the significance of the events of his own times and country.
He excelled as an administrator. His membership in numerous boards and committees indicated the confidence of his brethren and his ability to do these things. I was with him in the cabinet for a number of years, and was well acquainted with his administrative work as a presiding elder. He often impressed his associates with the clearness of his judgment, frequently finding a way to do things that adjusted delicate situations and furthered the interest of the Conference work. In this administrative work he was very careful and considerate of his brethren. It is always difficult for a man in this position to satisfy all of the interests involved, but I have never known a man to labor more earnestly and with greater impartiality to do the right thing than did Doctor Henry under these trying circumstances.
One of the outstanding characteristics of our brother was his loyalty. When he came to Louisiana to make this state his home he came as a stranger from one of the old settled Protestant states to this Conference where difficulties abounded, and where our church had seen many a struggle. From the very first he became attached to the state. I never knew a man who had a more enthusiastic devotion and loyalty than he did to Louisiana and the Louisiana Conference. He came seeking a field in which to work: he found it and stayed in it. And, so far as I know, never contemplated a move from it. This great characteristic of loyalty appeared in his relations with his friends. No man ever had a more devoted friend than J. M. Henry. Through more than thirty years I knew him, and never have a trusted a man more implicitly than I did this noble man of God.
His religious life was deep. He was not given to public expression of his feelings, but when the time came he gave his testimony simply, unfalteringly and briefly He possessed a mind of singular purity; I never heard him indulge in any form of conversation but such as became a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. He never descended to little things in his relations to men. He had a high soul and an exalted idea of fairness, of duty and consideration for the rights of other people and for the claims that were legitimately made upon him. The last two years of his life were shadowed with illness. He met it with characteristic courage and faith; there was no murmuring, and he met the issue with a splendid fight for life. Filled with hope, cheerfulness, patience and courage, he met the issue submissively to God. His cheerfulness and self-possession never forsook him. Master of himself from beginning to end, he was still the master when the earthly house of his tabernacle began to break under the strain of disease.
He met death as he met life, face-to-face, unafraid, calm in the consciousness that he had given all for Christ. When told that he could live only a short time, he said: “It is all right, it is all right; if God so wills it I am ready.” And then he quietly talked over his business affairs with his devoted wife, making ready for the final journey to his eternal home.
As we look back over the years we see now how strong and how true he was and what a high’ place he occupied in our councils. There was none of us but will be the stronger for having known him, and still stronger when we think of his ungrudging faith in Christ, giving back to God the life given to him. .
Source: Journal Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1921, pages 74-76, by F. N. Parker

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