In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Jesse L. Kidd, 97

Jesse L. Kidd, 1923-2020

Jesse L. Kidd, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among the American Affinity Peoples in Brazil, died Sept. 24, 2020, in Robert Lee, Texas. He was 97.

Kidd was born on Sept. 20, 1923, to Ida and John Kidd in their farmhouse near Urbana, Arkansas. The family moved to farmland in Duvall County, Texas, when Jesse was 3, then to the Ozarks near Flippin, Arkansas, where he completed grade school, then back to their home in Urbana, enabling Jesse to enroll in Urbana High School at age 19. Induction into the U.S. Army May, 10, 1944, supplanted graduation. After serving in the China/Burma/India Theatre, he was honorably discharged April 14, 1946.

At Ouachita Baptist College (now University) Jesse responded “Yes” to God’s call to preach, and he was ordained by the Urbana Baptist Church on Jan. 11, 1948. He was pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church, El Dorado, Arkansas, and Calion (Ark.) Baptist Church while at Ouachita, where he received the Bachelor of Arts. He received the Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, traveling weekends to serve as pastor the Ebenezer Baptist Church. At seminary, he responded to God’s call to serve as a foreign missionary.

In 1957 he received an invitation to teach at a Baptist school in Volta Redonda, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Arriving on March 19, 1958, he served alongside Southern Baptist missionaries, Walter and Imogene McNealy for nine years, supported by some churches of Liberty Baptist Association in Union and Ouachita counties of Arkansas.

Kidd met Wilma Alice Gemmell, missionary associate of the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board), who worked in the mission’s financial office in Rio de Janeiro. They were married Oct. 14, 1967, in Charlotte, North Carolina. They were named IMB missionary associates on March 13,1969, and returned to Brazil.

They served six years in the state of Santa Catarina in pioneer evangelism. They then moved to the state of Minas Gerais, where Kidd was director of missions of the North Association of Baptist Churches in the area around the city of Montes Claros, the agricultural center for over one million people. The couple lived six hours by auto from missionary colleagues in the state capital. The Kidds had a vision for new church growth, strengthening existing churches, encouraging pastors and expanding the work of winning the lost.

After 10 years, Kidd was granted honorary citizenship by the city council of Montes Claros on Sept. 22, 1988— the first time the council had so honored a foreigner.

In 1989 the Kidds retired to Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo, Texas. They wrote The Kidds of Brazil, their joint autobiographies. They were members of Immanuel and First Baptist churches, where Jesse was a member of the Berean Sunday School class. Kidd preached, promoted of the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions and taught Bible in the chapel of the retirement community.

Kidd is survived by his wife of 52 years, Wilma Alice Gemmell Kidd, and nieces Rexene Setters and Curtis Ann Davis and their families.

A private family graveside service was held Sept. 28, 2020, at Fairmount Cemetery in San Angelo. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held later in San Angelo.

Read an obituary here.