Entry Category: Religion - Starting with J

Jasper, Rickey Lane

Rickey Lane Jasper is the highest-ranking African American ever to serve in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He has also had a career as a minister, serving as a pastor at his church in the United States while pursuing seminary studies both at home and abroad. He is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Rickey L. Jasper was born in Parkdale (Ashley County) on July 28, 1963. His mother, Louisie Mae Grayson, and her husband, Kirt Grayson, raised him and his siblings in the small town. He graduated from Hamburg High School before heading off to college. Although he had planned to join the military after graduation, the academically inclined Jasper instead decided to join his …

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Since early in its history, the religious movement known as Jehovah’s Witnesses (or the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) has been represented in Arkansas. As of 2009, Arkansas has 110 English-speaking and 24 Spanish-speaking congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, with a total membership estimated at 10,000 adherents. Jehovah’s Witnesses tend to be noted especially for their outreach through door-to-door visits (featuring distribution of their literature, Watchtower magazine) and through their occasional conflicts with society related to questions of patriotism, health, and religious observances. The origin of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is closely tied to the work of Charles Taze Russell, who was strongly influenced by the Adventist movement in the United States in the nineteenth century. He concluded that most Christian churches …

Jewish Federation of Arkansas (JFAR)

The Jewish Federation of Arkansas (JFAR) is one the 157 members of the Jewish Federations of North America and is the only one located in Arkansas. JFAR is a resource for Jews throughout the state and a means for educating non-Jews about Jewish religion and culture. Efforts at consolidating the Jewish organizations of Arkansas began in the early 1930s. On April 24, 1932, approximately 300 Jews from around the state held a convention in Hot Springs (Garland County). There, the first association of Jewish congregations in Arkansas was formally created. It was called the Arkansas Jewish Assembly. The assembly was meant to promote the preservation of Jewish identity in Arkansas, holding yearly conventions at different sites throughout the state. Its …

Jews

Jews have always been a tiny minority of Arkansas’s population, yet their history in the state is long and deeply rooted. In the mid-nineteenth century, Jewish immigrants from Europe established communities and congregations throughout Arkansas. Despite their small numbers, Arkansas Jews have been committed to preserving their religious traditions even as they assimilated into the culture of their town and state. In the process, Jews became an active part of the state’s civic and economic life. As in many other Southern states and rural regions, the Jewish population has experienced significant decline over the past several decades, especially in small towns, though Jewish life and culture continues to flourish in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and the growing community of Bentonville …

John Brown University (JBU)

Founded in 1919 in Siloam Springs (Benton County), John Brown University (JBU) is a private comprehensive university known for its Christian identity, academic emphasis, and professionally oriented programs. The university began as a high school and junior college that emphasized vocational training for poor young people. It evolved into a four-year liberal arts university and later developed graduate programs in business and counseling. Throughout its history, the university has forged close ties with the churches and industries of northwest Arkansas and business leaders such as Sam Walton and John Tyson. JBU was founded by John Elward Brown, a self-educated evangelist, publisher, and radio entrepreneur who grew up in rural poverty in late-nineteenth-century Iowa. In July 1919, Brown, at that time …

Johnston, Lewis, Jr.

Lewis Johnston Jr. was the first African American ordained as a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church and the founder (with his wife) of the Richard Allen Institute in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), a school black students. He was also a teacher, writer, and newspaper publisher. He worked with Professor Joseph Carter Corbin and the Reverend Elias Camp Morris during a time of major transformation in the development of education for African Americans. Four of his sons were killed during the Elaine Massacre in 1919. Lewis Johnston Jr. was born free on December 12, 1847, in Blairsville, Pennsylvania, to Lewis Johnston (1805–1881) and Jane Bronson Johnston (1810–1897). His father had been born a slave in Derry, Pennsylvania, and later became …

Jones, Willa Saunders

Willa Saunders Jones grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the first decades of the twentieth century before moving to Chicago, Illinois, where she became a prominent religious and cultural leader. Her crowning achievement was a passion play (a dramatization of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection), which she wrote in the 1920s and produced for more than five decades in churches and eventually prestigious civic theaters. The play featured top musical talent, including Dinah Washington and Jones’s close friend Mahalia Jackson, and drew support from such prominent figures as the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Her success in music as a soloist, accompanist, and choral director and in drama stemmed from early experiences in …

Jonesboro Church Wars

The Jonesboro Church Wars were a series of early 1930s religious conflicts within the Baptist community of Jonesboro (Craighead County), comprising attacks on the mayor and the police chief, public gunfights, and the calling of the National Guard to restore order. The conflict attracted national attention and poisoned relations among some townspeople for generations. At the center of the Jonesboro Church Wars was Joe Jeffers, an actor-comedian turned traveling evangelist who, at the invitation of the First Baptist Church and Jonesboro Bible College, began a series of tent revival meetings on June 29, 1930. Jeffers proved to be so popular as he preached through July that, when First Baptist pastor A. W. Reaves resigned in early August, the congregation elected …