James H. Newsom Jr.

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 30, 2004

The Reverend James Holt Newsom Jr., retired rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Suffolk, died Wednesday, July 28, 2004, after a valiant two-year battle with cancer. He was 77 years old.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Sarah Frances Noell Newsom, and their four children: James Holt Newsom III, and his wife Gerri, of Norfolk; Mary Margaret (Boodie) Newsom McGinnis and her husband Peter, of Cortland, N.Y.; Thomas Noell Newsom and his wife Leigh, of Fort Collins, Colo.; Martha Elizabeth Newsom Smith and her husband Harvey, of Mechanicsville.

He is survived by nine grandchildren: James Coleburn Newsom, Ann Holt Newsom, Joshua Thomas Newsom, Paul Wesley Newsom, Brian Lee Newsom, Catherine Elizabeth Smith, James Alexander Smith, Bruce Anthony Cinibulk and Chloe Rae Cinibulk. He is also survived by his brother Thomas P. Newsom and his wife Pat of Portsmouth, and their daughter Candy.


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Born in Portsmouth to J. Holt and Margaret W. Newsom on March 13, 1927, Jim Newsom graduated from Cradock High School in 1943, where he was voted &uot;Best Dressed&uot; and &uot;Most Comical&uot; by his senior classmates. He attended Virginia Military Institute, graduating with honors with a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1948 after his college education was interrupted by a stint in the U. S. Navy at the end of World War II. He worked for General Electric and Sies Electric before entering seminary at the Berkeley Divinity School of Yale University in 1953, from which he graduated cum laude.

He was ordained in the Episcopal Church as deacon in 1956 and priest in 1957, serving as rector of Trinity Church in Winchester, Tenn., and simultaneously presiding over several rural missions from 1956-1959. He was rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Wytheville

from 1959-1960 and associate rector of Christ Church in Greenville, S.C., from 1960-1963. In November, 1963, Jim began a 29-year ministry as rector of St. Paul’s in Suffolk. His first Sunday services there were conducted on the weekend of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He retired in 1992, but continued to serve in area parishes as a supply priest for the next ten years.

The early years of his ministry were marked by a devotion to civil rights, and throughout his career he emphasized the value and dignity of every human being. He was loved for his sense of humor, the creativity and originality of his sermons, and the depth of his thoughts and perception. He was caring and selfless, helping many Suffolkians through times of sadness and joy, trouble and celebration.

Jim was a member of the Suffolk Rotary Club for 40 years, serving as president in the mid-’80s and being honored as a Paul Harris Fellow. He was active in the affairs of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, serving in numerous leadership positions including president of the Standing Committee, chair of the Mission and Ministry Commission and a board member of the Ridley Foundation.

He was also active in alumni activities at VMI, for whom he was class agent for the Class of 1947. He was a proud purveyor of the spirit of VMI and kept close relationships with many of his &uot;Brother Rats.&uot;

The family will receive friends from 7 until 8:30 Friday night at R. W. Baker & Co. Funeral Home & Crematory in Suffolk. A funeral will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Suffolk on Saturday, July 31 at 11:00 a.m., with The Rev. Carlotta B. Cochran and The Right Rev. C. Charles Vache officiating. Interment will follow immediately after in the church’s columbarium, with a reception in the parish hall. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the St. Paul’s Memorial Fund, 213 N. Main Street, Suffolk 23434; or the VMI Alumni Foundation, P. O. Box 932, Lexington, VA 24450. www.rwbakerfh.com