Bishop Frederick Calhoun James
Ecumenical theologian, advocate for fair and decent housing, proponent of civil rights, political leader and public servant are only a few of the characteristics of Bishop Frederick Calhoun James. He was born on April 7, 1922, in Prosperity, S.C., the son of Rosa Lee Gray James and Edward James. He graduated from Drayton Street High School, Newberry, South Carolina, and earned his B.A. degree in History/English from Allen University (1943), and his Master’s of Divinity degree from Howard University School of Religion (1947). He also studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York. James returned to South Carolina in 1947 to become pastor of Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church, Winnsboro; Chappelle Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, Columbia; and Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sumter, a position that he held for 19 years. He was also a professor at Allen University in Columbia, and, later, Dean of Allen’s Dickerson School of Theology. As a champion for civil rights, he also became a community and state social and political action leader. In 1960, he was elected Consultant/Director of Social Action of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In this position, he formed a close relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1963, he became President of the Effective Sumter Movement of Sumter, South Carolina, a historic chapter in civil rights. In 1967, as pastor of Mt. Pisgah A.M.E. Church, Rev. James led the sponsorship of the first 221(d)Rent Supplement Housing Project in South Carolina. In 1969, he initiated the first 221(h)Home Ownership Project in the state. He was South Carolina’s first African American Congressional District member of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and the Department of Social Services. From 1987 to 1992 he was a member of the Columbia Housing Authority and served as vice chair. He also served as Vice President of the S. C. Christian Action Council. In 1972, this eminent theologian and champion of civil rights was elected to the AME Bishopric and was assigned Presiding Bishop of the AME Church in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, and Mozambique. Headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa, he established schools, a publishing house, churches, and other institutions. Bishop James later was assigned bishop in Arkansas and Oklahoma (1976). He formed a lifelong friendship with then Attorney Bill Clinton. In 1984, he was assigned to the 7th Episcopal District, State of South Carolina. In each of these positions, he built housing projects, strengthened schools and led two colleges to full accreditation; Shorter College, N. Little Rock, Arkansas in 1981 and Allen University, Columbia, South Carolina in 1992. In 1992, Bishop James was assigned Ecumenical Bishop and Chaplaincy Endorsement Officer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church International. In 1993, he was given major fiscal and reconciliation duties as Bishop of the Second Episcopal District (Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and North Carolina) of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and he stabilized the District. In 1994, he was selected by President Clinton as an official member of the delegation to attend the inauguration of South African President Nelson Mandela, and in 1998 he was again chosen to accompany President and Mrs. Clinton on an official visit to South Africa. He and his wife, Theressa, had retired from active duty in 1996 and returned to live at home in Columbia, South Carolina. Bishop James is a former member of the White House Advisory Board on Historical Black Colleges and Universities, the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Board on Religious Freedom, and National Vice President of the Interfaith Alliance. A life member of the NAACP, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and a 33 degree Mason, he was inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame (1991) and the Columbia Housing Authority Wall of Fame (1994). In January of 2003, Bishop James was awarded the state’s highest honor, The Order of the Palmetto, for his significant contributions to South Carolina.