August 16, 2022
Dr. Jimmy Albright
DEFINITION: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.
It’s difficult to describe Dr. Jimmy Albright, and the legacy he leaves for St. Joseph.
Words about the late pastor, professor and local legend continue to circulate: Kind. Funny. Animated. Brilliant. Runner. Explorer. Curious. Quirky. Inspiring. And so many more.
It’s equally hard to describe his life’s work. For many, he was an incredibly engaging professor of archaeological studies, a long-time member of the Missouri Western State University faculty team. To many others, he was a trusted religious leader, serving as a pastor for decades at Wyatt Park Baptist Church and later New Market Christian Church. To others he was a great friend, always there for a laugh, always there to help with a project, always there to share a side joke or always up for an adventure.
Dr. Albright passed away in January of 2022, and will be forever known as a truly “uncommon” St. Joseph personality. Those who had the privilege of sitting in his classroom – either at MWSU or at numerous local talks, lectures and historical presentations – knew immediately that his teaching style went beyond walls. He often said he knew the streets of Jerusalem like the back of his hand, and could walk (or likely, run) those streets for hours without a map. Dr. Albright had the unique ability to pair his passion for archeology with his lifelong faith as a practicing archeologist and pastor, and led nearly 50 guided tours to the Holy Lands and the Middle East.
If he held up an ancient vase or artifact, he didn’t just hold it. He explained everything that was going on at the time it was made, and exactly what the hands were doing who created the object. The detail was exquisite (and sometimes a bit exhausting) because Dr. Jimmy, as he was known by locals, had been there. Lots of times. The passion and excitement he had for the Holy Lands and the culture only grew stronger and more animated over the various journeys he took.
Because that was just Dr. Jimmy.
He understood the power of objects to tell stories – and he mixed that with his skill for sharing personal and profound insights that gave each item, trip, lecture or sermon a greater connection to a bigger picture. Many locals would agree it was impossible to leave a talk by Dr. Jimmy and not think about some aspects of it in the days to come.
Phrases like “let’s see what the Bible says about that” and “there’s something very interesting going on here,” or “let’s look at the positive side of this” were often a kickstart to Dr. Jimmy’s spark lighting up a conversation or an entire room. (And usually, this would be followed by one of his other famous lines, “I have a face for radio.”)
Never one to sit for long, Dr. Jimmy is also remembered for running miles and miles. At one point in his life, he had committed to running at dawn every single day along the roads near his St. Joseph home. Forget weather, darkness and his advancing age … he was putting in the miles well into his 70s. Early runs in the dark were his personal challenge. They were his personal prayer time, and nothing could change that plan. It wasn’t unusual for him to run literally right into a community meeting, or to train for another marathon as a four-time Boston Marathon competitor.
Somewhere he found time to raise a family and to offer his insight and leadership to many local nonprofit boards and organizations, including serving on the board of directors and chairman of the Collections Committee at the St. Joseph Museums.
We say “legacy” for this unforgettable St. Joseph personality, but the story is so much more. It’s as big as the Sea of Galilee and as small as an old wooden church pew.
We are forever grateful, Dr. Jimmy.
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