Jim B. Orrick
Kentucky & Ohio Baptist Pastor
By his son, Jim Scott Orrick
“Children,” Dad said, his voice breaking with emotion, “I’d like you to meet the man who led me to the Lord.”
Dad was addressing my two sisters and me as we all were standing in a hotel lobby in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. It was February of 2017. We were there to witness Dad’s second induction into his high school’s athletic hall of fame. Earlier he had been inducted as part of a basketball team that had finished third in the state in 1952, and now his conference-winning football team from 1952 was being recognized.
Sixty-five years will take a severe toll on a high school football team. There were only three team members who could make it to the induction ceremony, and none of them looked like he could run a touchdown or make a tackle. Dad walked with a limp from a broken hip that he had sustained a decade earlier, but other than that, he looked healthy. We had no idea that a cancer was growing inside of him that would send him to the Lord only a few weeks later.
One of the three was an old man, who, when he was a young man had said something to my dad that cut him to the heart and led to his salvation. I had heard the story long before: The team was on a bus heading to an away game, and fifteen-year-old Jimmy Bob Orrick1 was using some unseemly language. One of his teammates overheard him and asked, “Orrick, are you a Christian?” My dad answered that he was. The young man said, “You sure don’t talk like one.” Many years later Dad had told me that it was this very exchange that the Lord used to bring him under conviction and lead him to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. I have often marveled at how the Lord sometimes uses seemingly insignificant events and feeble words to accomplish his will in our lives. Surely the excellency of the power is of God and not of us. On that bus, a bold young Christian had spoken briefly to one of his friends. In heaven, the Father had sent forth the Holy Spirit to arrest big Jim Bob Orrick.
After the boy rebuked him, I can imagine that my dad grew quiet and reflected on what had just happened. Either that night or soon after, dad gave his life to Christ, and he began talking and living like a real Christian. He continued talking and living that way until, nearly seventy years later, he went home to his reward in May of 2017.
Right away, Dad began using his talents for the Lord. He had a great singing voice, and he loved to sing. He was strong, and he could work like a horse. He never had any talent for designing projects, but he could work all day at whatever needed to be done. William Carey denied having extraordinary intellectual abilities, but he admitted, “I can plod.” I have often thought that to be true of my dad. He could plod. He was willing to plod doing manual labor, and one day, young Jim Bob was helping with some work at Second Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon. When he took a break for lunch, he picked up a paper from the tract rack to read as he ate his
1 My dad’s legal name was Jimmy Bob, not James Robert. I was named after him, and my legal name is Jimmy Scott. We both went by “Jim,” so to distinguish between us, he began using his middle initial, and I began using my middle name.
sandwich. The paper was The Ashland Avenue Baptist, and in it, he read for the first time of the Lexington Baptist College. A few months later, he got on a bus and moved to Lexington to attend LBC.
When I was a boy, I was rummaging through some old boxes in our garage, and I came across some old scrap books from my dad’s high school days. I saw from the newspaper clippings that he had been an especially talented football player. There were several recruiting letters inserted between the pages of the scrapbook. Amazed at what I was reading, I saw that these letters were from college football coaches asking my dad to come and play football for them. At the time, I thought that getting an athletic scholarship to play college ball would be a dream come true, and I could hardly believe that my dad had not taken advantage of the offers that were made to him. When I asked him about it, he said, “I wanted to study the Bible.” So off he went to study the Bible at Lexington Baptist College.
As a student or as a professor, I have been affiliated with many colleges and universities, so I have some basis for asserting that Lexington Baptist College was an unusually fine Bible College. When my dad was there in the 1950s, LBC had teachers like Buell Kazee, Roscoe Brong, Lloyd Mahanes, and others who made a lasting impression on Dad and the other students. Later came giants like John T. Thompson, Edward Overbey, and Berlin Hisel, and I can personally attest that these men were some of the best teachers anywhere. But who can express the influence that Pastor Clarence Walker had over the entire enterprise? The students at LBC and the people of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church adored Clarence Walker. I believe that it is at least an enormous advantage, if not an absolute necessity, that the president of a Bible College or a seminary be someone whom the students aspire to imitate. The primary goal of a theological education is not the communication of information; it is the formation of character. And it is virtually impossible for a leader to form the characters of his students apart from personal influence.2 My dad and others wanted to be like Brother Walker. One of the ways that Brother Walker influenced the students of LBC was to instill in them the importance of staying at a church for a long time. Many of the LBC “preacher boys” of the 1950s and early 60s, have gone on to their reward, but an astounding number of them pastored churches for over thirty, forty, or even fifty years, and some of them are still pastoring in 2023. Seems that my dad is not the only one who could plod.
In the fall of 1954, Dad was mesmerized by a beautiful new student from Morehead, Kentucky, Irene Skeens. Two years later, in December of 1956, they were married by Lloyd Mahanes at the Boones Creek Baptist Church. Buell Kazee sang at their wedding. They stayed happily married until Mom’s death in 2012.
While at LBC, Dad became pastor of the Newby Baptist Church near Richmond, Kentucky. He succeeded Harold Bratcher, who had left Newby to serve as a missionary to Brazil. Newby was and is a country church. In the 1950s, most of the men of the church were farmers, and several of them still did their farming using mules. Many people had milk cows and pigs and
2 This is one of the factors that makes internet education such a poor substitute for in-person education.
chickens. My mom and dad always raved about the food prepared by the women of Newby. They loved Newby, and they always spoke of that church with appreciation.
To help supplement the part-time salary from Newby, Dad worked for Gerald Smith who had a construction business in Lexington. Dad and a team of men taken mostly from students at LBC were employed to dig footers for new housing. They used shovels to do it. Years later, driving through Lexington with Dad, he would point to houses and say, “We dug the footer for that house.” I appreciate how hard he worked so Mom could stay home with us kids.
After seven good years at Newby, in 1963 Dad accepted a call from the Storms Creek Missionary Baptist Church of Ironton, Ohio to become their pastor. By this time my sister Cindy was six, and I was three years old. In 1965 sister Ann was born. We had the joy of growing up in the parsonage of Storms Creek, and all three of us gratefully acknowledge that we had an idyllic life there. I cannot remember any conflict at Storms Creek, although there was some trouble in the first couple of years over secondary issues. Dad and Mom remained faithful to their convictions, and they won the day. In fact, they won the next fifty years. They loved Storms Creek, and Storms Creek loved them back. When dad retired from being the preaching pastor in 2005 when he turned seventy, several families expressed their appreciation for his having ministered to five generations of their family. After retiring, he stayed on at Storms Creek as pastor of visitation until 2011 when he and Mom moved to Kentucky to be near me and my family. His tenure at Storms Creek had been forty-eight years. He continued to go back and preach for homecoming services at Storms Creek until he died. A few of those years both he and I preached at homecoming – an experience that I treasure.
Dad was a gifted preacher. In his early days his preaching leaned toward topical, but he eventually became an expository preacher. He preached three times a week at Storms Creek, and he always prepared diligently for his preaching responsibilities. He preached through the entire Bible on Wednesday nights, and it took him seventeen years to do it. When he told me that he had finished the series through the Bible, I asked him what he planned to do next. He told me that he was going to start over again in Genesis, and this time through he was going to go slower. He spoke extemporaneously using a brief outline. He maintained good eye contact with the congregation and cultivated a good rapport with them. He would begin the sermon with a mild sing-song style of speaking that he would lose after a few minutes and speak in a natural accent. He was a popular speaker at revival meetings and conferences. He kept a record of all the places he had preached and when he had preached there. It is impressive. He preached all over the place.
He was a faithful student of the Word. He read the Bible through most every year. Additionally, he was constantly reading good books. He had a good library and he used it wisely. He read all seventeen volumes of B. H. Carroll’s Commentary on the English Bible. He followed C. H. Spurgeon’s advice and read Matthew Henry’s Commentary from cover to cover. He read nearly all of Albert Barnes’ Commentary. He owned all sixty-three volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons, and judging from the underlining, he read most of them. He was an ardent student of Baptist History, and he taught Baptist History at Teays Valley Baptist College.
Dad cheerfully believed and preached the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace, and so he was also an ardent evangelist and supporter of foreign missions. For many years he was president of Baptist Faith Missions, and he led Storms Creek to be a generous supporter of foreign missions. He maintained a weekly radio broadcast on the local Ironton station. He edited a small monthly paper, “The Storms Creek Baptist Witness,” in which he nearly always wrote the feature article. Dad may have written the feature article, but he would have had to admit that the most popular article in the paper was the one written by Mom: Thoughts in the Cool of the Day. Dad was a fair writer, but Mom was truly gifted. After we children grew up, she earned a graduate degree in English and taught for several years at Marshall University and Ohio University.
Dad had a variety of interests. He and Mom were faithful walkers, and when they lived in the parsonage at Storms Creek, they would take daily walks through the woods on the hills around Coryville where the church was. Dad loved to garden. He and Mom maintained a stunningly beautiful flower garden, and he also grew a large vegetable garden, which produced much of the food we ate. He was a beekeeper, and we always had good honey to eat. Had blackberry-picking been an Olympic sport, Dad would have been a gold medalist. The same could be said for ice cream eating. He loved University of Kentucky basketball and Ohio State football. After he retired, he set himself to become a wood carver, and he carved some wonderful pieces.
The Lord called me to preach when I was only seventeen, and I know that in those early days some pastors asked me to preach because I was Jim Orrick’s boy. He had a stellar reputation, and I benefited enormously from it. After Mom and Dad moved back to Kentucky, I hope I was able to return the favor. Sometimes when I was asked to preach somewhere and I could not accept the invitation, I would recommend that they invite Dad, which they often did. I answered the phone one day, and a wag on the other end of the line asked, “Is this the great Jim Orrick?” I said, “No this is the lesser Jim Orrick. The great Jim Orrick lives about eleven miles from here.” If I was preaching within a couple hours of home, Dad would almost always go with me. We had many, many good trips together.
The summer before he died, he and I had shared preaching responsibilities at the historic Baptist Church in Christiansburg, Kentucky. The following spring, when some of the folks there learned that Dad was dying and that I was staying with him, they visited us, bringing us some food. Dad was fading fast, and he had been confined to bed for a couple of days. I received the visitors in the living room, and we talked for a while. Out of courtesy, I asked them if they would like to see Dad. They said that they would, and so I led them to the back bedroom where Dad was lying. When I told Dad that he had visitors, he stirred himself up and mustered the energy to talk cheerfully with them. He ministered right up until his dying day. His mind was clear to the end. The next day he fell silent, and at the end of the day, he died. My sisters and I were with him. He fought a good fight. He kept the faith. He finished the course. He used his talents well. He was a good father and grandfather, a loving husband, and a faithful pastor. That day on the football bus, when he was just a boy, his speech belied the fact that he was not a Christian. After his conversion and for the rest of his life, the speech that overflowed out of his redeemed heart revealed that he had indeed become a Christian.
[Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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