James Ernest Raymick was born in the Sulphur Springs community of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on May 15, 1933. His parents were Roe Donal and Ida Nell Raymick, both now deceased. Jim used to laugh and say he was brought up in a barn. The story is partly true in that the family lived in their barn while their country house was being renovated. His dad did most of the work. His mom was an elementary school teacher, and his dad a welder with the railroad.
Jim had two older sisters: Sunny Raymick Tidwell, now deceased, and Donnie Raymick Henderson, now living in Walla Walla, Washington. A younger brother died at birth.
In the early days, the family went to church in a wagon. Jim either rode his horse or walked to school. The children had to get up early enough to milk the cows and do chores before school. When they got home there was gardening and homework to do. Jim got his love of gardening from his mother, who always had huge gardens. He did get in a lot of trouble when his job was to plant seeds in a big row in the garden. He just dug one big hole, threw in all the seeds, and left to ride his horse. Of course that did not set well with his mom when all the plants came up in one place. Jim liked sports but said he would much rather be out in nature walking up and down the creek bank or riding his horse, Nippy, through the woods. He did get into a LOT of trouble when he left the house and was gone all day into the deep woods riding his horse. When his desperate mother found him she said, “Jimmy get down off that horse.” She did lovingly nurse his whipping wounds when they got home.
His singing career began at an early age. Before his voice changed, he was singing solos in his church, at school, and other places in the community. Even though he was brought up around country music, he had a natural love for what he called “good” music (which we might term classical), and correct vocal technique. He did not “bend” to the thoughts of others as he planned the music for church.
Jim earned his Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from Northeast Louisiana State in Monroe, Louisiana. While in college, and throughout his ministry, he was the soloist and music leader in many youth and church revivals.
He actively sought God’s will for his life. In that era of time, there were not many full time ministers of music. For that reason, he was not sure he could have a career in church music. In 1955, in blind faith and without any previous musical training, he entered the challenging church music program at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth.
But God still had other plans. In the middle of his first semester at the seminary, the Navy decided they wanted him. He spent a year in California training for the medical corps, and then spent the second year on the Naval base in Iwa Kuni, Japan. He loved seeing another part of the world, made lasting friendships and even took voice from a man there. He later used his medical training to be a surgical nurse at Harris Hospital in Fort Worth.
In 1957, he again entered the seminary. Norma was working as a secretary to the Treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Her boss allowed her to go to the convention in Fort Worth. She happened to be standing near the place where the Southwestern Singers were going in to sing. A college friend of Norma’s said, “Hey Raymick, there is that girl I have been saying you should meet.” From that point, the rest is history. We married on August 23, 1958, in the Chapel of First Baptist Church Dallas. August 23rd of this year would have been 62 years.
While in the seminary, Jim served the Forest Park Baptist Church in Fort Worth and later the First Baptist Church of Jacksboro, Texas. In October of 1960, our very special blessing arrived—the birth of our daughter, Lori Lynn Raymick. In the midst of driving back and forth from Jacksboro to Fort Worth, to being in the Southwestern Singers choir, to learning music for his Master’s degree recital, studying for his comprehensives, working at the church, and being a new father, he graduated in January of 1962. He was asked to be the soloist for the graduation exercises.
While leading the music for a revival at a church in Pine Bluff, the evangelist, Dr. Robert Hamblin said, “When you graduate we are going to call you to my church, the Harrisburg Baptist Church of Tupelo, Mississippi.” And that is exactly what happened! As Norma said, “He took me away from Texas and never took me back!” During our ministry there, our second precious daughter, Lana Lois Raymick, arrived. We were so proud and grateful of her. Our church was excited as well.
Our second full time church was at the Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas. While there, Jim was given an award for having the largest music ministry in the state, including children’s choirs, youth and adult choirs, handbell choirs, ensembles, etc. His Junior Choir was given the honor to be the demonstration choir at the Baptist Music Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. Jim had an absolute passion for teaching voice. He spent many hours teaching adults and youth. Of course he loved to have his students sing in worship services.
The youth of the church loved him and also liked to play tricks on him. One time, they put our little Volkswagen convertible in the foyer of the church, and then gave us duct tape to bandage the tears in the convertible top. Another time, during youth handbell practice, Jim had to leave the room for a phone call. The youth took their handbells, climbed out the second story window to the roof, jumped over to the next roof, and were standing in formation to ring when Jim came back! One more story was told of an event that happened on choir tour. The youth decided to see how many could get in the bathroom of the bus. I think the number came to 13, but the window came off and one of the boys barely caught his brother as he was falling out of the window. Such are the stories of working with youth.
On December 15, 1973, we were both 40 when God gave us our precious son, James. He was such a joy to us and our girls. James, Jodi, and their family served on the mission field for 17 years in East Asia.
From there we served churches in Jackson, Mississippi, First Baptist Church of Ponca City, Oklahoma, for 10 years, the Oak Park Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, and our last full time church, the Barcelona Road Baptist Church in a huge gated community in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. After our retirement, Jim served as music leader for the new Coronado church in the Village and later as an interim director for First Baptist, Pine Bluff.
In 1968, Jim was a charter member of a singing group called The CenturyMen. The choir was started by the Radio and Television Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was an auditioned group of 100 full-time Ministers of Music across the United States. They made a tour each year and in the 5th year traveled overseas. We were so blessed to see the world. I think I counted 16 countries where they had performed, and some more than once. Norma was so blessed to join them on many of the trips. One memorable trip was when they were invited to perform with the Beijing symphony orchestra. This was in 1983 at the time China was first opened to foreigners. Jim had a deep, deep love for these brothers in Christ. CenturyMen music was played as a prelude to the service.
Everyone who knew Jim knew about his absolute love for horses, especially the ones who were black and white. At one time, we had as many as four. And he was constantly on the lookout for new ones—even when we came to Tulsa and had no place to put one.
Another special word needs to be said about Jim. He had an intercessory prayer ministry that lasted many, many years. When your name was put on his prayer list it never came off. The legal yellow pad where he kept his list was very worn and frayed. Just reading through the list took nearly an hour. He also read the Bible and “My Utmost for His Highest” every day.
Our children are married to wonderful mates: Lori and Bill Greenfield, and their family, daughter Ashley, and granddaughter Ella, son Connor and his wife Dana, son Cameron and daughters Rachel and Olivia; Lana and Bob McGrew, and their family, daughter Morgan and her husband Eric, son Mitchell and his wife Allison, and daughter Maddy; James and Jodi Raymick, and their children, sons Callum, Cole, Carson, and Cohen, and daughter Cayden. We are so blessed with 13 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. They all love “Papa Jim.”
Jim was famous for his sense of humor and fun sayings. We had fun one night just remembering them and plan to have a copy for you upon leaving the service. Just a few weeks ago he was confined to a wheelchair and we had very little conversation. I was talking to someone as we were visiting near him and I said, “He just doesn’t say anything.” He looked at me, and in a clear voice said, “Anything.” From that, we learned to be careful what we said in front of him. One week before his death, when two of his caregivers asked if it was okay for them to come back on Monday, he looked at them with a smirk and said, “Let me check my schedule.”
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when we were in Hot Springs Village. He broke his hip the last of March and was in the hospital and rehab therapy for over 3 weeks. Because of the Coronavirus, we were never allowed to see him. He finally came home to full-time care and a hospital bed. After going through much anxiety, pain and confusion, the Lord said, “It is time to take you home.” In his last hours, our children surrounded him singing hymns and quoting scripture. We were there when he took his last labored breath. We are sure he was greeted with joy and love from the Jesus he loved and served all his life.
We will all miss him greatly, but are grateful for God letting us be a part of his life. He had great love for his family, friends, and his Lord. We will treasure his memory forever. His life was a bright light to all who knew him.
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