Celebrating Black History Month in the WNCC: Rev. Dr. James Walter Ferree, Sr.

February 16, 2023

By: Jim Pyatt, WNCC Archivist & Historian

Rev. Dr. James Walter Ferree, Sr. (June 14, 1927 - March 26, 2019)

When representatives from the Justice and Reconciliation Team and the Commission on Archives and History in the WNC Conference first met jointly in 2017 to discuss celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. Ferree as a resource person immediately came to the mind of everyone involved, for at the time he was the sole surviving District Superintendent from the North Carolina-Virginia Conference of the Central Jurisdiction. He was personally involved in merging that conference into the North Carolina, Western North Carolina, and Virginia Conferences. As expected, he proved to be a valuable resource for information regarding that chapter in the life of the church, providing insights and wisdom that he alone could provide.

Dr. Ferree was a native of Randleman and was nurtured in the Christian faith at Ferree’s Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. He was graduated from Livingstone College and Hood Theological Seminary, and did further study at Union Seminary in Richmond, VA. High Point College conferred upon him the Doctor of Divinity degree in 1987. Ferree was licensed to preach in 1945, ordained Deacon in 1949, and ordained Elder in 1955. He was admitted into the North Carolina Conference (Central Jurisdiction) On Trial in 1950 and into Full Connection in 1954.

As a pastor, Dr. Ferree served the following appointments: 1949-55 Statesville-Philadelphia; 1955-57 Maxton-Beauty Spot; 1957-59 Lumberton-Beauty Spot; 1959-63 Lumberton; St. Andrews-Walnut Cove (Winston-Salem) 1963-65; Eastern District Superintendent 1965-68; Union Memorial-Celia Phelps (Greensboro) 1968-69; Associate Program Director, WNC Council on Ministries 1969-74; St. Matthews (Greensboro) 1974-79; Gastonia District Superintendent 1979-84; Director, Conference Council on Ministries 1984-88; Winston-Salem District Superintendent 1988-95. While he retired in 1995, Dr. Ferree served as Director of Ethnic Church Development 1997-98 and as pastor at Simpson-Gillespie (Charlotte) 1999-2000.

Dr. James Ferree provided leadership in the UMC in numerous ways. He served as a delegate to General Conference in 1968, 1972, 1984, 1988, and 1992. Through the years he served as a member of numerous boards and agencies, including the WNC Caucus of Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the General Board of Church and Society of the UMC, the General Board of Global Ministries of the UMC, the Lake Junaluska Board of Trustees, the Pfeiffer College Board of Trustees, the Board of the African American Methodist Heritage Center, the North Carolina Council of Churches (President 1980-83), and the Board of Directors for Arbor Acres. This listing is but a glimpse of the variety of ways in which Dr. James Ferree gave of himself in service and ministry to others.

As his memoir in the 2019 Journal states, Dr. Ferree was “a ‘drum major’ for racial justice and equity in the United Methodist Church. Having survived the era of ‘Jim Crow’ and segregation in all areas of our society, including The Methodist Church, he worked diligently to ensure that all Christians would have equal opportunities to worship, fellowship, and serve God in all capacities of church life.” (p. 336) The WNC Conference is blessed to have had Dr. Ferree and his leadership at this critical time in our history.

Be sure to read the other biographies written by WNCC Archivist & Historian Jim Pyatt:

Rev. Cecil Harvey Marcellus, Jr., the first African-American elected to the Reidsville City Council, where he served for three full terms and part of a fourth term.

Dr. David Dallas Jones, the president of Bennett College from 1926-1955.

Rev. William Hornbuckle, a Native American ordained Deacon in 1928 and Elder in 1931.

Daphine Strickland, part of the Task Force that led to the organization of Triad Native American Church, the first Native American congregation in our Conference outside of Cherokee.

Thomas Queen, the Director of the Cherokee Mission from 1973 until his death in 1992.

Jeremiah Wolfe, the first Native American to be elected a delegate to General Conference from the WNCC in 1976.

Rev. David Ortigoza, the Director of Hispanic and Latino Ministries for the SEJ in 2003.

Rev. Diana Wingeier-Rayo, the first Hispanic/Latina woman to be received into full clergy membership in the WNC Conference.

Raul Adriano, the first known person of Hispanic/Latino heritage to be elected by The WNCC to serve as a Lay Delegate to General Conference.

Rev. Carlos Alberto Rodriguez, a key figure at the Board of Missions Office of The WNCC in 1961.

Rev. Dr. Abraham Kim, the first Asian-American to be elected as a clergy delegate to Jurisdictional Conference from the WNC Conference.

Rev. Karen Miyoshi Kagiyama, the first Asian-American women to be ordained an Elder in the WNCC.

In Muk Kim, the first Asian-American to be elected as a delegate (clergy or lay) to Jurisdictional Conference from the WNC Conference.

Rev. M. B. Lee McCrary, the first woman to become a full clergy member of the Western North Carolina Conference. 

Rev. Dolores Barus Queen, the first woman to serve as District Superintendent in the Western NC Conference.

Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer, the first (and to date, the only) woman to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mrs. Jettie Morrison, a key figure in the Women's Society of Christian Service and the integration of The United Methodist Church in 1968.

Bishop L. Scott Allen (May 4, 1918-September 18, 2004), the first (and to date, the only) African-American to serve as Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mrs. Effie Miller (September 17, 1930-September 1, 2008), a leader in the Western North Carolina Conference and the United Methodist Church, especially with regard to the United Methodist Women.

The Rev. Dr. J. C. Peters (July 10, 1925- July 2, 1998)the first African-American to serve as a District Superintendent in the Western North Carolina Conference.

Mr. Clarence Winchester,  a leader in the North Carolina Conference (Central Jurisdiction) and in the WNC Conference.

Dr. Isaac Miller (September 26, 1920-November 1, 2008), a leader in Higher Education and in the United Methodist Church.

#BeUMC Personal Reflections