In memoriam: Missionary emeritus James Leroy Crawford, 86

James Leroy Crawford, 1935-2022 . IMB Photo

James Leroy Crawford, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Venezuela, died Jan. 21, 2022. He was 86. 

James was born Aug. 22, 1935, in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, to the late Leroy and Beulah Crawford. He graduated from Poteau High School in Poteau, Oklahoma. He received the Bachelor of Arts from Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and the Bachelor of Divinity, the Master of Theology and the Doctor of Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.  

James met Sammye Henson in Sunday school at age 14 and knew he wanted to marry her one day. James and Sammye married in 1957. He died five days before their 65th wedding anniversary. 

Before he felt the Lord’s call to the mission field, he pastored churches in Oklahoma, Illinois and Texas. He came from a long line of Baptist pastors. 

“The call to missions came as a growing conviction that God had allowed me to do graduate work in order that he might use me in some specific way,” James wrote in his letter seeking missionary appointment. “As I began to search for what God wanted me to do after I finished my education, I came to feel that His will was for me to teach in one of our theological schools on the mission field.”  

The Lord confirmed this conviction in 1969. 

The Crawfords were appointed for missionary service by the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) to serve in Venezuela.  

James served as the Old Testament professor and president of the Venezuelan Baptist Theological Seminary. He also pastored and planted churches in the mountains outside the capital, Caracas.  

The Crawfords retired after 30 years of service. 

In retirement James taught seminary extension classes and pastored Hispanic churches in central Oklahoma. He also took time to pursue his desire to write books. While in his younger years he wrote scholarly articles on the theology of the Old Testament, the books written in his retirement were historical novelizations of biblical characters. He wrote books that investigated the human natures of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, Paul and Jezebel. His book on Paul was translated into Spanish.  

James is survived by Sammye, his wife of 64 years; his three children, Jim Crawford (Gina), Joyce McCartney (Mike), and Janet Austin (Randall); six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. 

A memorial service was held on Jan. 29, 2022, at The Hill at Quail Springs Baptist Church, Iglesia Bautista Central, in Oklahoma City.  

Read an obituary here.