In memoriam: Missionary emeritus James Harris McGriff Jr., 74

Jim McGriff, 1946-2020

James Harris McGriff Jr., an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among the American Affinity Peoples in Guatemala and Belize, died Aug. 15, 2020. He was 74.

McGriff was born July 7, 1946, in Montgomery, Alabama, to the late Harris and Viola McGriff. He graduated from Autauga County High School, Prattville, Alabama, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. He received the Bachelor of Science in geology from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, where he was a member of the “Million Dollar Band,” the university’s marching band.

In 1969, McGriff married Carol Dozier of Elmore, Alabama. That year, he also entered active duty with the U.S. Army, where he did tours in the Panama Canal Zone and Vietnam. He then worked six years as a geologist before he entered New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received the Master of Divinity.

During seminary, he and Carol helped plant a church in Georgia as summer missionaries with the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board). Also during seminary, he became pastor of Westview Baptist Church, Amite, Louisiana.

McGriff wrote when seeking missionary appointment that Helen Falls’ missions class his first semester “made the missions scene come alive for me, and I learned that a missionary leads a very exciting, purposeful life.” As the Holy Spirit worked in his life, he said, he eventually yielded to God’s leading to missionary service. Carol, he later learned, had been waiting for him to make that decision.

The Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed them missionaries and they served 27 years in Guatemala and Belize. He was also author of discipleship materials in the K’ekchi’ language.

McGriff is survived by his wife of 50 years, Carol Dozier McGriff; his son, Brantley McGriff; daughter, Keeley McGriff Burgess (Garrett); his sister, Judy McGowin (David); brother-in-law Phillip Thomas and sister-in-law Kay Thomas.

A celebration of life was held Aug. 18, 2020, at Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Elmore, Alabama.

Memorial donations may be made to the International Mission Board, 3806 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230, or online at

Read an obituary here.