Dr. James Stewart Riley

March 4, 1918November 21, 2011

James Stewart Riley, Th.D. answered the call of his God and finished his life on earth on the 21st of November 2011, at his home in Sugar Land after a lengthy illness.

Born on the 4th of March 1918, in Memphis, Tennessee, to James Titus and Mattie Sue Stewart Riley, he grew up in Memphis and Germantown, Tennessee. At age 17, he preached his first sermon in Cordova Baptist Church. James graduated from Germantown High School and Union University, Jackson, Tennessee. During and following his university days, he pastored in Mississippi and Tennessee. While pastoring Eudora Baptist Church in Memphis he married Margaret Cansler on the 20th of August 1942. In 1944 he enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, where he completed both a Master’s and Doctor’s degree in Theology. While pursuing his seminary education he pastored First Baptist Churches in Caddo Mills, Wills Point, and Paris, Texas. In 1956, he assumed the pastorate of Second Baptist Church, Houston where he led the church in its major relocation from downtown to the present Woodway site and in the construction of the initial education, recreation & worship facilities.

In 1976, Dr. Riley joined the Religion & Philosophy faculty of Houston Baptist University. While teaching at HBU, he held interim pastorates and was a pulpit and teaching guest at numerous area churches, both Baptist and other denominations. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Association of Baptist Teachers of Religion.

Dr. Riley served as Vice President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and as a trustee for the Southern Baptist Foundation, Southwestern Seminary, East Texas Baptist College, San Marcus Baptist Academy and the Christian Life Commission of Texas. He served as a trustee of Memorial Herman Hospital System, HBU, and the Oldham Little Church Foundation. He was a member of the Houston Downtown Rotary Club and the court appointed Biracial/Triethnic Committee which guided the integration of HISD.

In 1985 Dr. Riley and Margaret joined South Main Baptist Church where he taught the Men’s Bible Class for many years. On the occasion of his 92nd birthday, he was honored by the Men’s Bible Class with a tribute describing him as “a master scholar, an expositor of scripture, pastor, professor, and teller of 1001 humorous stories.”

Dr. Riley is survived by his wife, Margaret; his children, James S. Riley Jr. and his wife, Merrily, of Houston, Jay Riley and his wife, Ann, of Emerald Bay, Jeanne Riley Blackmon and her husband, Bill, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, Jan Riley John and her husband, Peter, of Austin; his grandchildren, Carey Riley Hair and her husband, Rusty, James S. Riley III, Catherine Riley Buckles and her husband, Nathan, Melissa Riley, Jason James Riley, Braden Blackmon and his wife, Lori, Bowman Blackmon, Nathan Stewart John, Brian Morrison John, and Andrew Riley John; and great-grandchildren, James Thomas, Amanda, and Elaina Hair; Nadia, Eli, and Gage Buckles; and William James and Xavier James Blackmon; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents; his sister, Lillian Riley West; and his brother, Joseph Titus Riley.

In celebration of Dr. Riley’s life, friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from six until eight o’clock in the evening on Friday, the 25th of November, at Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.

The interment service is to be conducted at eleven o’clock in the morning on Saturday, the 26th of November, at Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery.

The memorial service is to be conducted at half-past one o’clock in the afternoon, also on Saturday, at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main St., Houston, TX, 77002, where Dr. Steve Wells, Dr. Tim VanDuivendyk, and Jeannette Clift George are to officiate. Immediately following, all are invited to greet the family during a reception in the adjacent Fellowship Hall. Serving as honorary pallbearers are the Men’s Bible Class of South Main Baptist Church.

In lieu of customary remembrances, contributions in Dr. Riley’s memory may be directed to Memorial-Hermann Foundation, 929 Gessner Rd., Ste. 2700, Houston, TX, 77024; Texas Baptist Children’s Home Foundation, 1301 N. Mays St., Round Rock, TX, 78664; Alzheimer’s Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, D.C., 20090-6011; or to the charity of one’s choice.

“He died yet through his faith he is still speaking.” Hebrews 11:4 KJV


Dr. James Stewart Riley

have a memory or condolence to add?


receive updates when new memories are posted

Charlene Warfield

November 27, 2011

I was fortunate to have Dr. Riley as a professor in the 70's. You never forget excellent teachers and he was that. His stories of preaching in Tennessee still make me smile today. Truly a good man of God and will always be one of my favorite proessors.

November 26, 2011

Mrs. Riley, Jim, and family:

Dr. Riley married Sandra and me in January, 1970, and he was a wonderful and caring man of God. Every Sunday morning for several months and longer, he would ask very seriously (Is everything all right?) We would assure him that it was, and still is after 40 plus years of marriage. We are out of the city for Thanksgiving, but our prayers are with you. Phillip Johnson.

Don Looser

November 26, 2011

Dear Margaret and family,
On behalf of your many friends in the HBU Retirees' Association, I should like to affirm the wonderful memories we have of Jim and his years of contribution to students and colleagues here. Know of our ongoing prayers in your behalf. Ours is the richer for the two of you.
Don Looser

November 26, 2011

Dear Margaret, Our love and sympathy are with you and your precious family. What a prince Dr. Riley was!! Prince of preachers, prince of pastors, and prince of friends. He did a good and lasting job when he married us on April 6, 1952. How my parents loved you all. And we love you. You are indeed special folks. Thank you , Norman and Patsy Davis

Larry Watts

November 25, 2011

A great and good man of God. He followed Dr. Kyle Yates and nurtured Second Baptist Church Houston with grace

November 25, 2011

Mrs. Riley and family, My mother, Evelyn Dyal worked for Dr. Riley for several years at 2nd Baptist and HBU. I remember giving my parents an open house for their 50th anniversary and you and Dr. Riley coming to our home. Mother thought so much of Dr. Riley and I know he will be truly missed. Mother has been gone for almost 16 years. They will have a great reunion remembering old times.

Marilyn King, Tomball, TX

Bill Krenek

November 25, 2011

Riley family,
God's comfort to you in this great loss. Jim made himself available to us in the early 70s at HBC and I am forever grateful for all he did for me and others...

Mary Meek

November 25, 2011

Dear Mrs. Riley and Family,
Mother and I send our condolences on the passiing of Dr. Riley. Dr. Riley came to Second Baptist downtown the year I was born, in 1956. One of my earliest memories as a little girl was seeing Dr. Riley on Sunday mornings and getting big hugs from him with a big, welcoming smile. I recall him wearing a crisp, white shirt, a black suit with his hair slicked back and he would smell so wonderful! Then, about 30 years later, he married my husband and I. What an honor that was. It was a great priviledge to know such a wonderful person and preacher. We will never forget Dr. Riley and what he has meant to our family. I know he is rejoicing in Heaven and worshipping the Lord for whom he dedicated his life. He was a very special man.
With love and respect,
Mary Ellen Fields Meek and Maxine Fields

Stephen Reeves

November 25, 2011

I am saddened to hear of your loss, but will rejoice in Dr. Riley's graduation day. He was a great inspiration as he taught my New Testament class at HBU in the 80's. He also taught me a little about golf, too. We have lost a great man after God's own heart!

November 24, 2011

I am so sorry for the loss of your dear loved one. May the bereaved family be comforted by looking forward to a time when all causes of death will be eliminated.