Dr. Jimmy R. Allen, 91, died Jan. 8 at Southeast Georgia Health System in Brunswick, Ga.
Dr. Allen is a former President of the Southern Baptist Convention (1978-1979). Named in 1999 as one of the most influential Baptists of the 20th century, Allen was the last moderate president of the convention.
Dr. Allen served as pastor of the 9,000 member First Baptist Church of San Antonio, Texas, from 1968 to 1980. He led that center city congregation to establish new social ministries, while at the same time expanding its evangelism and nurturing ministry.
A pioneer in religious broadcasting, Dr. Allen served as President and CEO of the Radio and Television Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. As a television producer, he won an Emmy from the American Academy of Arts and Entertainment for the Best Special Program in the nation in 1988; produced for ABC Television, the program, entitled “China: Walls and Bridges,” was filmed in the People’s Republic of China.
Dr. Allen was a leader in causes of ethical concerns. From 1960 to 1968, he was Director of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and in 1962, conducted the first state workshop on Christianity and Race Relations in Southern Baptist history. He served on the Planning Conference for the first White House Conference on Civil Rights. He was committed to the separation of church and state, and from 1973 to 1978 served as President of Americans United.
Dr. Allen served as a Non-Governmental Observer at the United Nations (1962). In 1974, he received the Citation of Merit from the Government of Honduras for humanitarian service in the wake of a natural disaster. He led a fact-finding mission to Iran during the hostage crisis at the United States Embassy in Teheran (1979-80), and was one of the few Americans to meet personally with the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Dr. Allen’s book, “Burden of a Secret,” is a personal account of his family’s struggles as a transfusion-related HIV virus caused the death of his two grandchildren and their mother. That experience was basis of a call to churches to banish fear of AIDS.
In 2008-09, Dr. Allen served as program chair and coordinator for the New Baptist Covenant, a pan-Baptist gathering spearheaded by former President Jimmy Carter, promoting racial unity.
Dr. Allen was Chaplain Emeritus of Big Canoe Chapel, a multi-denominational chapel in the North Georgia mountains, where he served as chaplain for 12 years. At the time of his death he lived with his wife, Linda, on St. Simons Island, Ga.
Dr. Allen’s earned degrees include a Bachelor of Arts from Howard Payne University, a Bachelor of Divinity and a Doctorate of Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the recipient of five honorary doctorates.
Dr. Allen was preceded in death by two sons, Michael Allen and Stephen Allen; three grandchildren; and his wife of 52 years, Wanda Allen.
He is survived by a son, Benjamin Allen of Lake Tahoe; and his wife of 14 years, Linda Allen.
Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 14 at First Baptist Church of St. Simons Island, and at 2 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Big Canoe Chapel, in Big Canoe, Ga.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the national organization of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Ave., Suite 500, Decatur, GA 30030; or the New Baptist Covenant, 601 50th St., NE, Washington, DC 20019.