James Melvin Keith

June 22, 1943January 2, 2016

Dr. James M. Keith, former pastor of First Baptist Church of Richardson, TX, passed away on January 2, 2016 at the age of 72, leaving a large legacy of family, not only those related by blood, but thousands upon thousands of touched souls related by love. Jim was born in Jackson, Mississippi to “Buddy” Keith and Mary Walton. Out of necessity, Jim took on many responsibilities most boys never face. His own father, Buddy, was permanently disabled in World War II during a fierce battle near Barr, France when a German mortar attack shattered his body and left him with only one arm. Jimmy, being the older of two sons, rose to the task and stepped into a patriarchal role that would serve him well throughout his later life in the ministry. In high school, Jim was a hard hitting offensive and defensive tackle who did more than his fair share in leading the scrappy Provine Rams to a State Championship in 1960. From small means, Jim became the first in his family to graduate from college. After beginning his collegiate career as a football player at Mississippi State University, a chance meeting with future NFL linebacker Johnny Baker led to a major life change. One bright day, Johnny leaned out of his car and asked the walking freshman “Hey, Jimmy. How about going to the BSU with me?” Jim went to the Baptist Student Union with Johnny that night and soon after felt the tugging often referred to as “the calling.” He soon transferred to Mississippi College, a Baptist school, and began studying for the ministry. While at MC, he met “the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.” Her name was Saundra Gordon. They married in August of 1966. One week after they married, Jim and Saundra loaded up her yellow Mustang and moved to Ft. Worth, TX where Jim began studying for his Masters of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He received that degree in 1969, and in 1975 he earned his doctorate from the same place. As the number of his degrees grew, so did his family. First was a son, Scott, born in 1968. Then another son, Gordon, in 1971, and finally the daughter they had dreamed of, Kristin, in 1974. During this time, Jim’s amazing mind and extraordinary talent for preaching propelled him through the ranks of the Southern Baptist Convention. The First Baptist Churches he pastored got successively bigger in size, but they were all equally loved. He and his wife Saundra maintained deep and lifelong friendships with the people from churches in Antelope, TX, Blum, TX, McGregor, TX, San Marcos, TX, Laurel, MS, Gulfport, MS, and Richardson, TX. During his ministry, Jim also taught at two seminaries, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Additionally, he served on the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and the Boards of Trustees at William Carey College in Hattiesburg, MS, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. He became a member of the Board of Directors for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the invitation of one of his heroes, Coach Tom Landry. After the leaving the pulpit in 1989, Dr. Keith continued his ministry by helping churches raise money for capital needs. During his 18 years at RSI, Jim worked with 120 congregations from thirteen denominations, raising nearly half a billion dollars for the Lord’s work. Since retirement in 2008, Dr. Keith wrote a book called “Prayer: Getting Answers.” It was not long after completing the book, when his health began to truly decline. The heart issues that had plagued him grew worse. The rare skin condition that caused easy lacerations and constant bleeding left him bandaged and discolored around the clock. And the immunity issue that he had spent a decade receiving monthly infusions to treat developed into multiple myeloma. Still, never has a man battled as hard and long and without grumble year after year, just so he could see one more Grandparents Day sitting in a small chair at a local school marveling at crude artwork. It was preaching that was his calling. It was writing that was his passion. But it was grandchildren that were his love. In May of this year, Dr. Keith sat in his home and watched his wife of 48 years die of cancer on a bed surrounded by their three children and one beloved daughter-in-law. He preached his own wife’s funeral three days later, and two days after that Dr. Keith went into the hospital himself for the first of four long stays. This past Saturday, Dr. Jim Keith gripped his son’s hand and said “I always wondered how it would end.” He had lived an extraordinary life. He had preached to thousands. He had officiated countless weddings. He had baptized so many new believers, and now his work was done. As the heart monitors behind his hospital bed began to draw erratic mountains and foothills, Dr. Keith closed his eyes, took his last breath, and joined his wife, eight months to the day. Jim is survived by his three children, his nine grandchildren, and a host of souls he changed and moved in his long years of service to God and man. May those he touched one day join him and say, “Thank you, Preacher, for what you did for me.” And his heartbroken family is grateful beyond measure for his spirit, his love, and his tenacity. He said, “No child deserves to lose both parents in the same year.” He made sure that didn’t happen, just for us. As a final gift for him, let’s hope everyday in heaven is Grandparents Day. We love you, Dad. Always. Dr. Keith’s funeral service will be this Friday at 10am in the Sparkman Hillcrest Funeral Chapel. The family hopes to see you there.


  • Funeral Service

    Friday, January 8, 2016


James Melvin Keith

have a memory or condolence to add?

greg bullock

January 18, 2016

Jim Keith was a fine man and wonderful pastor! He was a tremendous help to my family during some difficult times and for that qualifies as saint! God Bless Dr. Keith and family! Greg Bullock- per 1st Baptist in Laurel-

Alan Strickland

January 13, 2016

Dr. Keith was a great encourager for me and for my family. His Christ-like love and support made a huge impact in Richardson and the entire north-Texas area. I know he is rejoicing in heaven now and hearing "Well done My good and faithful servant!"

Joe Breshears

January 11, 2016

I've been a Ticket listener since day one. For all of these intervening years I have followed Gordon's stories of his mother and father with great interest. Dr. Keith's passing is like losing an extended family member to me.

What a marvelous obituary; what a rich history; and what a great legacy he leaves for his family. I always sensed that I shared with Dr. and Mrs. Keith the One Spirit scripture describes. I shouldn't be surprised then, that there are so many parallels between my life and theirs.

I pray that in this season of grief the God of all comfort will minister grace and peace to Gordon, Scott, Kristin, and the entire family, as only He can. I ask the Father to answer every prayer that Dr. and Mrs. Keith expressed on behalf of their family.

I have often thought it would be wonderful to meet Dr. Keith. While that wasn't to be in this life, I look forward to an eternity with him to celebrate his life and God's grace.

Generic Youth Minister

January 11, 2016

Dr. Keith was a great inspiration to me

Gary Fenton

January 9, 2016

Jim was a very good man who served the Kingdom well. He was very helpful to the church I serve and to me personally during a capital campaign in the mid 1990's.

Ramon Infante

January 9, 2016

Through Gordo and The Ticket I also grew to admire the Reverend Keith. May he rest in peace. Gordo, take your time but come back on air, you need us but mostly we need you.

January 9, 2016

Jim was a friend as well as spiritual leader. I spent many the Monday night at FBCR eating a snack and then going to visit those that had attended the previous Sunday's services. Jim was always there to encourage and spend time with the faithful. I knew him as a man of integrity and honor - always. His influence in my life is recalled often. I'll miss him, and Saundra as well.
Jim Hollis

John Barrow

January 8, 2016

Prayers to the family. We love The Ticket & ESP Gordo, & my dad told me the other day when this was in the Obits that we all were members of 1st Baptist when he was the preacher. I vaguely remember, too.

Shirley Grafton Evans

January 8, 2016

Was a member at First Baptist Church of Laurel MS during his time in Laurel. So sorry to get this news but know where he is. May God grant you peace as you have such wonderful memories.

Greg Versen

January 8, 2016

Susie and I were friends and classmates with Jim and Saundra at Mississippi College. They were outstanding at MC and continued to be so after graduation. Their lives stand as a testimony to their love for each other, Christ and his people. Our deepest condolences to his family. Greg "Buckshot" Versen