His Journey . . .
Pastor Claude Ray James was born on October 29, 1943 in Patterson, Georgia. The eldest child of Ernest James, Sr. and Mary Esther Blake James, he began his walk with Christ growing up in the A.M.E. Church in Pierce County, Georgia. He was formally educated in the Pierce County Public Schools and he graduated from Lee Street High School in Blackshear, Georgia in 1961.
Pastor James served 4 years in the United States Air Force and was honorably discharged in 1966 at McGuire AFB in New Jersey. After leaving the military, he began a career in law enforcement in Camden, New Jersey. Through the local law enforcement educational program,
he enrolled in Camden Community College and graduated with an A.A. Degree in Criminal Justice in 1971. He continued his education and in 1973, he graduated with a B.A. in Criminal Justice from what is now Rowan University. Officer James served as the Community Relations Officer in Camden, New Jersey from 1974 – 1976 whereupon he resigned from law enforcement and moved back to Georgia. He went to work for the Dept. of Natural Resources in Waycross, Georgia and then for the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, Florida.
While in Tallahassee, he joined Fountain Chapel A.M.E. Church and it was there that he accepted his call to ministry. When his pastor, Pastor A.H. Hunter, advised that he needed to attend seminary, he transferred his job to the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia and enrolled in Turner Seminary. In 1981 he graduated with a Masters degree in Religious Education.
Pastor James’ first church assignment was the Poplar Hill Circuit in Newton County, Georgia. In 1982 he
resigned from the federal prison system and became the full time pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Covington, Georgia. Improvements made at St. Paul during his tenure included a major renovation of the church at a cost of 139K dollars. While at St. Paul, Pastor James was featured in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, “Resting Place” starring Morgan Freeman, John Lithgow, and CCH Pounder.
In August of 1986, Bishop Hilborn Talbot asked Pastor James to come to First A.M.E Church in Athens, Georgia in the middle of a church and community crisis. The church was reunited under the theme “Rebuilding
Spirits and Structure for an Outreach Church.” The result of this effort was the infusion of 86 new youth mainly from the Bethel Church Homes low income apartments located nearby into the church YPD program.
Another result was the formation of the African American Interdenominational Ministerial
Fellowship (AAIM), a new 501(c) organization that united the African American ministers in the Athens – Clarke County area. During this time Pastor James trained at the Athens Police Academy and was hired by the City of Athens Board of Education work to work as a Resource Officer at Burney - Harris - Lyons Middle School. He was also given the opportunity to play the role of a father in a UGA Production "Livin Fat " by Judi Mason which ran from Nov. 5, 1989 thru Feb. 1990.
In July of 1993, Pastor James was asked to become the pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Albany, Georgia.
During his time at Bethel A.M.E. Church, new ministries were formed, the current YPD tutorial program was started, the church was totally renovated, a new parking lot was installed, new vans were purchased and a 98 unit low income apartment community, Bethel Housing Complex, was built at a cost of $5 million dollars. Pastor James was also Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bethel Housing.
In October of 2000, Pastor James was asked to come to the historic Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in Atlanta, GA. During his tenure at Allen Temple, new ministries were formed, two new church vans were purchased through the Birthday Club, a new roof was installed, the boiler was changed to a modern HVAC system, and the affiliated 580 unit apartment complex, sitting on 42 acres, was renovated at a cost of 26.4 million dollars.
In June of 2009, Pastor James was sent again to the
historic First A.M.E. Church in Athens, Georgia. This
church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is currently raising 100K dollars for renovations to the historic area of the sanctuary.
Pastor James continually expresses the necessity and the obligation of the church to maintain and uplift the community, the city, the state and the country. He is
a biblical and historical scholar and natural teacher no matter the setting. He is currently a Doctor of Philosophy Candidate in Christian Education at
Trinity Theological Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana.
(Denise Page contributor 2011)
See video of his 30th celebration in Ministry.