James Smylie Obituary

James  Hutchinson Smylie
James Hutchinson Smylie

October 20, 1925 - January 5, 2019
Born in Huntington, West Virginia
Resided in Richmond, VA
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SMYLIE, James Hutchinson, of Richmond, Virginia, died peacefully on January 5, 2019. He was 93 years old. An ordained minister, seminary professor, and church historian, his ministry took him around the country and the world. A memorial service is planned for February 1, 4:00 pm at Westminster Canterbury where he was a resident, 1600 Westbrook Avenue, Richmond. Dr. Smylie was born October 20, 1925 in Huntington, West Virginia, into a family of clergy and teachers. He moved to St. Louis, Missouri at the age of five where he attended public schools and showed a talent for art, writing, and choral music. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Washington University and Bachelor of Divinity and Masters of Theology degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary. He was ordained into the Presbyterian Church USA and was Assistant Minister at First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis where in 1951 he met and married Elizabeth Roblee Smylie. He returned to Princeton Seminary to finish his PhD degree and begin teaching. In 1962, Dr. Smylie took a faculty position in American Church History at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond (now Union Presbyterian Seminary). He was named Ernest Trice Thompson Professor of Church History and retired as Professor Emeritus in 1996. Dr. Smylie was a respected teacher and colleague, and a sought-after preacher and speaker. Dr. Smylie lectured across the country and in Vancouver, BC, Seoul, Korea, the British Isles, the Middle East, and China. He also lectured at the Library of Congress. A prolific writer, Dr. Smylie authored numerous articles and books on American church history, focusing on the Presbyterian Church. He wrote about the US Constitution, political humor, hymnody, art, literature, and civil rights. Among his publications are the popular A Brief History of the Presbyterians (1996) and a series of historical articles for the Presbyterian Outlook (1998). Dr. Smylie served as Secretary of the American Society of Church History and between 1968 and 1995 he was Editor of the Journal of Presbyterian History. He engaged in peace-making and social justice causes throughout his life. Dr. Smylie was active at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church, where he sang in the adult choir and taught Sunday School. At Westminster Canterbury, he led weekly current events discussions and administered communion to residents in health care. A man of good humor and cheer, he was a prolific doodler and bad punster. He was a loving husband and father, and a friend to all. Dr. Smylie is survived by his wife of 67 years, Elizabeth, and their three children, Mark Andrew Smylie of Oak Park, Illinois, Margaret Elizabeth (Beth) Puckett of Williamsburg, Virginia, and Mary Catherine (Cathy) McGehee of Richmond, and their spouses Sallie Gamble Smylie, Ben Puckett, and Read McGehee. Dr. Smylie had nine grandchildren: Lauren Gage, Anna Caldwell, Rachel Smylie (predeceased); Bonnie Levine, Andrew and Sarah Puckett, and Rebecca McWilliams; and Eliza and Jane McGehee. He also had six great grandchildren: Eden and Emet Levine, James Puckett, Alice and Jack Gage, and Sylvia McWilliams. Dr. Smylie was predeceased by three brothers, Theodore, John, and Robert Smylie. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Westminster Canterbury Foundation or to The James and Elizabeth Smylie Award in American Religious History at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Donations to the Westminster Canterbury Fund can be made at https://foundation.wcrichmond.org/senior-living-donations-richmond-va or by check to the Westminster Canterbury Foundation, 1600 Westbrook Avenue, Richmond, VA 23227. Donations to the James and Elizabeth Smylie Award can be made at http://upsem.edu/give or by check to Union Presbyterian Seminary, 3401 Brook Road, Richmond, VA 23227. For gifts to either fund, please specify In Memory of James Smylie.




Memorial Service
1600 Westbrook Avenue
Richmond, VA 23227
Friday, February 1, 2019
4:00 PM


Westminster Canterbury Foundation
1600 Westbrook Avenue
Richmond, VA 23227
Please specify In Memory of James Smylie.
James and Elizabeth Smylie Award Union Presbyterian Seminary
3401 Brook Road
Richmond, VA 23227
Please specify In Memory of James Smylie.