Rev. James F. Yates dies at age 85
By JAMIE PATTERSON
Rev. James Yates, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church and community leader, died this week at the age of 85.
Yates was known throughout Yazoo for his service to the ministry and his commitment to civic causes. Through his volunteerism and faith, many remember his love and dedication to the community.
With three decades of service, Rev. Yates was pastor of First Baptist Church for the longest period in the church’s history.
“What a loss to so many,” said Christy Lynn White. “He was a wonderful man of God.”
Rev. Yates was born on Dec. 5, 1926 in Greenville, Ky. to John Cody Yates Sr. and Nancy Ethridge Pendley Yates.
The youngest of six children, he graduated from Calhoun High School and went on to attend Campbellsville Jr. College and Centre College. He later earned his B.A. degree from Union University.
Rev. Yates was a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he attended the School of Church Music prior to earning his Master of Divinity degree.
In 1955, he married Joy Wirotzious of Memphis.
Before arriving in Yazoo City in 1961, he came from First Baptist Church in Paragould, Ark. and had served a previous pastorate at Brownsville Baptist Church in Tennessee.
Rev. Yates served as pastor of Yazoo City’s First Baptist Church from 1961 until his retirement in 1991.
“When I came back to Yazoo as pastor, I often called him to ask him for advice,” said Rev. David Bryant, current pastor of First Baptist Church. “He would always tell me what to consider. He never told me what to do. But he always said, ‘the Lord will lead you. Trust the Lord.’”
Jay Soday was baptized when he was nine years old by Rev. Yates. They kept contact with each other through the years.
“I love his family, and I know they need our prayers at this time,” Soday said. “He was a real inspiration to me. He brought me to God. Yazoo has lost a truly great man of God.”
After his retirement, Rev. Yates was called as interim pastor, and in some cases to serve as a full-time pastor in Mississippi churches. These included First Baptist Church in Indianola, First Baptist Church in Flora, First Baptist Church in Rolling Fork, Oakhurst Baptist Church in Clarksdale, First Baptist Church in Starkville, Concord Baptist Church in Yazoo County and Delta Baptist Church in Yazoo City.
“He was a light for Jesus in this town,” said Loraine Larson.
Aside from his dedication to the ministry, Rev. Yates was involved with many civic duties. He was president of the Yazoo City Ministerial Association. He served as president of the Yazoo City Rotary Club, where he was named a Paul Harris Fellow. He served on the board of directors with the Yazoo County Chamber of Commerce and the Yazoo Arts Council. He was also involved with the United Givers of Yazoo County.
Rev. Yates was very active with the Yazoo City Municipal School District. He served as president of the school board and was general chairman of the Parents of Public Schools. He was also a member of the MAP Coalition.
The community he served also took notice of his duties. He was named Yazoo County’s Most Admired Citizen, Citizen of the Year and was presented the Spirit of Yazoo Award.
Rev. Yates served as moderator of the Yazoo County Baptist Association. He was also a member of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and member of the executive committee, later becoming president of the convention board for two terms.
Rev. Yates also served on various committees in the Southern Baptist Convention and was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. He was also in heavy support of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on state and national levels.
He served as a member of the Board of Trustees, executive committee and board secretary for Mississippi Baptist Medical Center. He also was a member of the Board of Trustees at William Carey University in Hattiesburg.
He was a man who loved gardening, music, theater, yard work and bee keeping. He also had a special place in his heart for sports, especially the Kentucky Wildcats.
But most remember Rev. Yates for his love and dedication with the ministry. He made several trips around the world to visit missionaries, preach revivals and attend conferences. He would participate in crusades and serve as tour director.
And to many, Rev. Yates was a neighbor, friend and fellow Yazooan.
I remember their home in Enchanted Hills,” said Hayes Dent. “We used to skateboard there...me, Jeff Johnson, Doug Hall, Tom Black and others. He was such a kind man.”
“He always put me back in God’s hands,” added Rev. Bryant. “That is the essence of ministry.”
Rev. Yates was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Robert Yates, Marion Yates and J.C. Yates Jr.; and sister, Vernia Bradley.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Joy Yates of Yazoo City; daughter, Carol Joy Sparkman (Tommy) of Clinton; sons, John Yates (Patty) of Enterprise, Ala., James Foster Yates Jr. (Paula) of Starkville and Jeff Yates (Suzy) of Universal City, Texas; grandsons, Hunter Sparkman of Nashville, Cody Sparkman of Clinton, and Foster Yates and John Paul Yates, both of Starkville; and sister, Evelyn DeLacey (Gibson) of Mt. Juliet, Tenn.
Visitation for Rev. Yates will be held today from 1-3 p.m. in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church. Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m.
Burial will follow in Glenwood Cemetery under the direction of Stricklin-King Funeral Home.
Memorials may be made to the church or charity of your choice or to the Music Department at Mississippi College in Clinton.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Marion Sigrest, the caregivers of Mississippi Home Health and the staff of King’s Daughters Hospital for their loving care.