The Transition of our Ninth President Dr. James O. RichSubmitted on: August 6, 2017
Reverend Dr. James O. Rich will be remembered for his devotion to God, his love for his family, church family and an extraordinary commitment to his community.
He was born during segregation in Sumter, South Carolina a factor that led him to take an active role in fighting for justice and civil rights. In addition to his responsibilities as pastor at Saint Paul Baptist Church, for 22 years he was President of the NAACP in Anderson County.
He attended Green Elementary School and graduated from Lincoln High School, Sumter, SC, decades before South Carolina’s School Equalization Program, created to build decent schools for Black students to prevent integration. He graduated from Morris College, Sumter, SC with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education. He would go on to “teach” all his life. He also earned the Bachelor of Divinity Degree as well as the Master of Divinity Degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center, Morehouse School of Religion, Atlanta, Georgia. He did more post graduate work at the Lutheran Southern Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina. In 1975, he received the Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from Morris College.
Reverend Rich was just a teenager when he accepted the call to become a minister of the gospel. He took his first official position in 1954, Assistant Minister at his home church, Trinity Baptist Church, in Sumter, SC. In 1955 and for the next five years, he served simultaneously as pastor of two churches, Second Baptist Church, Hartsville, SC and Mount Rona Baptist Church, Florence, SC. For almost half a century, 47 years, from 1960 to 2007 he was pastor of Saint Paul Baptist Church in Anderson, SC. Reverend Rich was bi-vocational. He also taught at Ebenezer High School in Dazell, SC and went on to serve as an instructor and eventually Dean of the School of Religion at Morris College in Sumter, SC.
Reverend Rich was a true servant of God and a servant of the people. He dedicated his life to bringing souls to Christ and was a tireless advocate for young people and ministers, actively encouraging them to advance their education. His efforts led to many students attending college, others getting jobs and in some cases better jobs. He taught that preparation is a key factor for success; and further, that once success was achieved to be humble and to give back by helping others. He walked the walk and it was evident in his humility, preparation and willingness to lend a helping hand.
He championed the idea that everyone can contribute to improving humanity. He sincerely believed God can use the least of us to do his work. As a result, he mentored an untold number of people in virtually every walk of life. He was generous with his time and gifts and freely shared the impact of his faith and belief in God.
Reverend Rich was a gifted orator and public speaker. He also had the unusual gift of shifting to a soft voice, making you feel you were the only person in a crowded room. He lifted your spirit with his presence, a listening ear and by providing sound advice.
Reverend Rich profoundly loved the members of Saint Paul Baptist Church. He valued their Christian service, their commitment and their loyalty. Further, he was grateful for their love for the church, for humanity and for his family. Neither he nor his family will ever forget the acts of kindness and genuine love shown throughout his pastorate and during his illness, as well as that of his beloved late wife Arabella Rich. He married Arabella Deforester Hester in 1956. They remained devoted to each other, their children and Saint Paul Baptist Church until her death in 2013.
Reverend Rich will be lovingly remembered by: his son, Stanley L. (Phyllis) Rich of Anderson, SC; his daughter, Stephanie R. Rich of Arlington, TX; his grandson, Stanford A. Rich of Grayson, GA; one sister, Marie Porter of Lynchburg, VA; one brother-in-law, Bishop John (Wilma) Hester of Greenville, SC; two sisters-in-law, Ingeborg Hester of Baltimore, MD, and Helen Sallette of Lanham, MD; and several nieces, nephews, and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Phillip and Rosa McFadden Rich; brothers, William Elijah, Abraham and John Rich; and sisters Pearl and Rosa Lee Rich.
Viewing will be held on Friday, August 11, 2017 from 12 noon till 8pm., at the St. Paul Baptist Church in Anderson, SC. Services will be held on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at Boulevard Baptist Church, 700 Boulevard Street, Anderson, SC 29621. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the J. O. Rich Center, St. Paul Baptist Church, 322 W. Reed Street, Anderson, SC 29622.
Services are entrusted to Rich-Colonial Funeral Home of Anderson. www.rich-colonial-funeral-home.com
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