Word has come that my friend and role model of many years has passed away.  Dr. James Semple pastored FBC Plano and FBC Paris for a number of years and then went on to serve as the Director of the State Missions Commisssion for Texas Baptists.  My first awareness of him was when I saw him towering on the platform in the great meeting room at Annuity Board building in downtown Dallas.  This was before we built the current building at 333 North Washington.  Dr. Semple served as a voluntary parlimentarian in our board meetings when I first went on the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  He was a man of incredible presence and commanded respect throughout the room.  I would only learn later of his great ability as a preacher of the gospel.  He was a guest speaker at Kingsville as well as Crestview in Georgetown.  In both assignments, he made a great impact.  I was just discussing a return visit with him when he became ill.  Not too long ago he was serving as interim pastor at FBC Stephenville and word was that they were in no hurry to find a pastor with him in the pulpit.  Even in retirement he has been an amazing role model.  He cannot imagine how much it meant to me as a young pastor for him to go out of his way to learn my name and take an interest in me.  I recall sitting at a banquet on one occasion when he saw me and came and dined by my side.  I was so honored that he regarded me as someone he wanted to fellowship with.  The tragedy of pastoral ministry is that we have only limited contact with other pastors over the years.  In the case of Dr. Semple even those limited visits have been rich and rewarding.  When I first heard the news of his passing, I pictured him in a small boat on Baffin Bay where we had gone to catch speckled trout during a morning of a revival week in Kingsville.  He had a great time and showed great skill as an outdoorsman.  We also threw in an amazing lunch at the world famous Kings Inn during that stay.  We talked at length about ministry in South Texas.  He also gave me some powerful advice after my move to Georgetown.   God truly touched my life through this man and I will carry in my heart his encouragement as long as I live.

Dan Wooldridge


  1. Being from Paris and with my initial home church being FBC Paris, I had the honor and privilege to listen to Dr. Semple for most of his 25 years at the church. Dr. Semple used to come by our farm and fish. I really, really thought because of his 6’5″ frame and his booming voice that he must be like God. His Easter sermon describing the final days of Jesus from the senior Roman Guard is legendary. I was honored to travel to Paris and take my 87 year old mother to the funeral at the church. I have never seen this ever before but Dr. Semple was on tape and gave an invitation to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior from the grave. He was the greatest of men but lived a life in humble submission to his Lord and Savior. What an Example for all of us!

  2. For the last 6 months of his time at FBC Stephenville, I drove him from Dallas there each weekend while I was at Dallas Baptist. I will never forget one evening when we arrived at the Hampton Inn the night before he was to preach. As we were getting out of the car he fell into the car with great force, and passed out in the middle of the parking lot. I thought he had gone to be with God right there in the parking lot, but then I noticed him grunt a little and then let out a sigh. Before he would even let me pull him off of the concrete, he asked “Please don’t tell your grandmother that this happened okay? She won’t let me continue to come preach.” He cared so deeply about sharing the gospel, preaching God’s word, and leading the church that he was willing to suffer near death experiences like this. To him, Jesus was better than life. After that day, and perhaps because of that day, Jesus was better than life for me too. The witness and wisdom of my grandfather left an eternal impact on me. He suffered well, and his body began to whither, his passion swelled with server. This was a great post to read all these years later.

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