By Ralphine Major
It looked like the talented, young pitcher from Knoxville had a future in professional baseball when the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators invited him to summer camp. But James McCulla passed on those golden opportunities. He had already surrendered to the ministry. Summer Russell shared as much in a loving tribute to her grandfather. “You see, at an early age Jim McCulla fixed his eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of his faith, and Jim’s loving gaze was so transfixed on the Savior that he became like Jesus more than any other person I’ve ever known.”
Summer’s words speak volumes about the man known as “Preacher Jim.” She gives a heartfelt glimpse into the soul of this outstanding man of faith as her tribute continues. “I’m going to miss the man who showed me Jesus, not just from the pulpit, but from the two hospital beds in his home where he nursed his wife and daughter who were dying from cancer; from the streets of Knoxville where he looked into a stranger’s eyes who was battling addiction and told her just how much Jesus loved her; from the back of a church in the 1940s where he refused to preach unless the ‘leadership’ allowed his black friend in the congregation; from the WW2 Japanese ground where he led a Japanese soldier to saving faith in Jesus; and then from the pulpit where on the Sunday morning after losing his son in a car accident the night before, he preached on faith from the book of John.” McCulla held the funerals for his wife, daughter, and son. Words of Faith: Every night Preacher Jim would read Philippians 4:13 (shown in Part 1), turn the page and read Philippians 4:19 (KJV): “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” This was a practice he started after losing his son.
Daughter Carol Russell shared one of Preacher Jim’s many quotes: “Methods are many, principles are few. Methods often change, but principles never do.” He was the man who challenged the congregation on Sunday nights to “say a good word for Jesus” and who often said, “Someday the hand that opened for me the gates of grace will open for me the gates of glory.” Today, the McCulla family is celebrating that “Preacher Jim is with the Lord, where he always wanted to be.”