In 1980, James E. Wood, Jr. was described by fellow Baptist Stan Hastey as "perhaps the most able living church-state scholar among Baptists in America." Now fifteen years later, due as much to his prolific scholarship as to his work as a consultant to nations around the globe, it may readily be said that Wood is today the leading authority in the world on the subjects of church-state relations and religious liberty. As we pay tribute to Wood on the occasion of his retirement in 1995 as director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, it is fitting that we reflect upon his remarkable record of achievement, a record that spans his life as a Baptist missionary, as the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, as a professor of the history of religions and church-state studies at Baylor University, and as editor of the world's only scholarly journal devoted exclusively to the subject of church and state, the Journal of Church and State.
Born in Portsmouth, Virginia on July 29, 1922, Wood grew up in a close-knit family. His father, James E. Wood, Sr., was a painting contractor who divided his time between painting homes and painting ships in the naval shipyard at Portsmouth. His mother, Elsie Bryant Wood, was a homemaker. Both were persons of wide-ranging interests, especially fond of music and