In memoriam: Missionary emeritus James Leonard Wootton, 85

James Leonard Wootton, 1934-2020

James Leonard Wootton, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among the East Asian Affinity Peoples in Korea and elsewhere in East Asia, died Oct. 29, 2020, at Mason City (Illinois) Area Nursing Home. He was 85.

Wootton was born in Dec. 26, 1934, in Elizabethtown, Illinois, to the late James E. and Elzie Reiner Wootton. He received the Bachelor of Science in Education from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale; the Master of Education and a certificate of specialization in education from the University of Illinois, Champaign; and the Doctor of Education from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

He married Mary Lou Teegarden on June 23, 1956, in Junction, Illinois. Wootton was employed as a teacher and school administrator for 44 years. He worked as an intramural coach, elementary school teacher, head teacher, principal and summer school administrator for 14 years at Kankakee (Illinois) Public Schools.

He then responded to God’s call to go overseas. While seeking missionary employment, Wootton wrote that he and Mary Lou felt God calling them to Christian service soon after returning from a conference at Lifeway’s Ridgecrest (North Carolina) conference center in 1979. After several months of praying and seeking God’s will, they publicly committed their lives to full-time Christian service. On a second trip to Ridgecrest they felt led specifically toward missionary service.

The Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) named the Woottons as missionaries to Korea in 1970. Wootton was headmaster of Korea Christian Academy in Taejon. While serving there, he founded and was the first president of the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference, worked with the Korean Council of Overseas Schools, was co-founder and first president of East Asian Council of Overseas Schools.

Wootton was also the small schools superintendent coordinator, where he led schools to become accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges. From 1979 to 1996, Wootton worked with the Assembly for Advanced English discussions. He retired as headmaster from Taejon Christian International School in 1996.

From 1998 to 2000, James came out of retirement at the request of the International Mission Board to start an international English language school elsewhere in East Asia.

After serving 25 years, the Woottons returned to the United States and Wootton worked as a substitute teacher for five years from 2000 to 2005. James was a member of the Springfield (Illinois) Southern Baptist Church.

Wootton was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Mary Lou, and three of his children: Joseph Wootton, Mark Wootton, and Melissa Phillips. He is survived by one son, James L. Wootton II (Jean) of Cortez, Colorado; three daughters: Pamela Hickey (Paul) of St. Charles, Missouri, Sherry Holliday (Doug) of Greenview, Illinois, and Natalie Holliday (Steve) of Athens Illinois; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

A private family ceremony was held with burial following at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield. Those who wish to attend ceremonies virtually may do so on or after 10:30 a.m., Nov. 14, 2020, by visiting

Read an obituary here.