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  • Paige Patterson

A Tribute to Dr. James Leo Garrett


Dr. James Leo Garrett slipped away into heaven yesterday under circumstances a little different than those of the average believer. Meeting a plethora of theologians and historians about whose lives and theologies Garrett had written extensively had to make for interesting conversations even in a land where every conversation is electrifying.


Just a few weeks ago when I last visited with Dr. Garrett, now 94 years of age, he continued to astonish me as he has always done with his memory of all things theological. His monumental Systematic Theology, appropriately subtitled in three crisp words—Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical—is the condensed thought of a polymath who believed every syllable he wrote. Dr. Garrett’s interest in students was demonstrated by the fact that he took time even in a recent note to exchange helpful books with me as though I were a new student sitting at the feet of a master teacher.


As professor of theology at Southwestern and Southern seminaries, Dr. Garrett endeared himself to several generations of students, who learned among other things the middle name of every theologian the professor could mention. A churchman, Dr. Garrett served his local church faithfully and encouraged local churches everywhere in faithful appreciation for their rich heritage. Through the Baptist World Alliance, Garrett served a world Baptist constituency with vigor.


“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps 116:15). The transfer of each believer to glory is precious to God. But in our loss of Dr. Garrett, a godly historian and theologian is leaving a legacy in his books which serve as guides for all.