James H. Purks III: Feb. 20, 2018

Published 5:02 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ATLANTA — James Harris Purks III, whose life was devoted to his fellow man, his church, his community, and his country, died on Feb. 20, 2018, in Atlanta. Jim, as he was known by so many, was born Aug. 21, 1936, in Atlanta, the son of James Harris Purks Jr., and Mary Brown Purks. He is survived by his fraternal cousins Robert Kemper Purks of Falls Church, Virginia, and Mary McMillan Mancin of Bartow, Georgia; and his maternal cousin Jane Bowyer of Dunnellon, Florida.

After graduating from Trinity School in New York City, where his family had moved, Jim graduated from the University of North Carolina magna cum laude, where he was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He obtained a master’s degree in international studies from Stanford University and pursued additional study at the University of Chile in Santiago, Chile.

Jim became a reporter for The Associated Press covering the civil rights movement in Alabama. In this role, Jim came into contact with civil rights leaders and is pictured with the Reverends Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and Ralph David Abernathy on the cover of The Race Beat, a book about the historic events in Alabama. Jim was especially proud of an AP report he wrote after walking through the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham immediately after it was bombed on Sept. 15, 1963. His report is now considered a classic of journalism reporting. Jim said for years afterward that he remembered that sad event whenever he trod upon broken glass. Throughout his life, Jim supported civil rights, and in the 2011, Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration in Albany, Jim was a Dream Award Recipient.

Following his AP career in Alabama and Florida, Jim entered politics, working as press secretary in state government and on the successful campaign of Richard Stone, the second Jewish senator elected from Florida. He subsequently worked on the successful presidential campaign of Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia; thereafter serving President Carter as his assistant press secretary. Jim was inspired by the Carters’ faith during their turbulent White House years.

After the White House, Jim worked at several Fortune 500 companies. Even then his strong bent for service and ministry manifested itself in work with inner city youth in Detroit and in Chicago, where he was among other things the coach for a successful rope skipping team.

Jim then joined Habitat for Humanity working at its international headquarters in Americus, where he worked in marketing plus collaborating on two books with Habitat founder Millard Fuller. Throughout his life time Jim volunteered for numerous Habitat building projects in the United States and abroad.

Jim subsequently felt a strong call to another role of service and ministry as a Deacon in the Episcopal Church. He was ordained on Dec. 7, 1999. Among those whom Jim credited with encouraging and supporting him as he studied to become a deacon and in his work thereafter as a deacon, Jim often cited his uncle William Kendrick Purks of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Father Reginald Gunn of Americus.

As a deacon, Jim constantly sought ways to serve others, both in the church and in the wider community. He was a member of the Order of Saint Claire, an Anglican healing order, and the International Order of St. Luke the Physician. He has served as a hospice chaplain, as well as chaplain at Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany. He was a member of the HIV/AIDS survivors support group of Albany. He was a mentor in Education for Ministry (EfM) and a volunteer with St. Clare’s Kitchen serving food to those in need. He also supported the Bridge of West Central Georgia, a community-based, non-profit that supports those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in Sumter County and surrounding counties.

Jim was committed to helping combat veterans who returned with invisible wounds of war. He helped create the annual St. Paul’s Barney’s Run, which raises money for regional veterans in need of a service dog.

Jim was a member of the Chi Phi fraternity at the University of North Carolina, and in later years was a mentor for the Chi Phi chapter at Georgia Southwestern State University. In 2015, the national fraternity awarded Jim the Walter Cronkite Award in recognition of his work on the front lines of the civil rights movement and in his community. Walter Cronkite, the first recipient of this award, expressed the hope that future potential honorees would include “those who may not gain national fame but who devote great effort and much of their time trying to improve their local communities and the lot of their neighbors.” This well states how Jim lived his life.

Jim was a true servant of the Lord who possessed the gift of inspired intercessory prayer. Jim comforted and lifted up those around him whether close friend or stranger, all with a caring respect and Christ-like love.

There will be a requiem Mass celebrated for Jim at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25. A reception will follow. Committal will be at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 26.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to St. Paul’s Church Memorial Fund, the St. Paul’s Endowment Fund, or to a favorite charity.

To sign the online guest book please and express your online condolences the family go to www.aldridgefuneralservicdes.com. Aldridge Funeral Services at 612 Rees Park, Americus, is in charge of these services.