Dr. Jimmy Allen memorial service set for Jan. 18 at Big Canoe Chapel
Dr. Jimmy R. Allen, Big Canoe chaplain emeritus, died Tuesday, Jan. 8, in Brunswick, Ga. His wife Linda was by his side.
Allen was the second chaplain of the chapel, leading the congregations for 10 years until he retired at the end of 2002. The Allens moved to Marsh’s Landing on St. Simons Island, Ga. after leaving their home on Sanderlin Mountain in Big Canoe.
Allen succeeded Dr. Vernon S. Broyles who founded the chapel in Big Canoe’s early days of development. Allen led the chapel through changing times and many challenges. During his chaplaincy, the Broyles Center was expanded by 66 percent, the size of the congregation almost doubled, the budget grew from $416,000 to over a million dollars, The Terraces and the Boy Scout Hut were built, and the idea of the Meditation Park was generated.
A Memorial Wall at the Chapel Cemetery was constructed, and the chapel bell was moved when the bell tower was built. All chapel programs were expanded under Allen’s leadership and many new ones were added.
When a tornado hit the chapel and Broyles Center Nov. 11, 2002, damage was repaired in time for the Christmas programs.
Memorial services were held at the First Baptist Church on St. Simons Island January 14 and The Big Canoe Chapel January 18.
Allen is a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1978-1979). Named in 1999 as one of the most influential Baptists of the twentieth century, Allen was the last moderate president of the convention. He served as pastor of the 9,000 member First Baptist Church of San Antonio, Tex. from 1968 to 1980. He led that center city congregation to establish new social ministries, while at the same time expanding its evangelism and nurturing ministry. A pioneer in religious broadcasting, Allen served as president and CEO of the Radio and Television Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. As a television producer, he won an Emmy from the American Academy of Arts and Entertainment for the best Special Program in the nation in 1988; produced for ABC Television, the program, entitled "China: Walls and Bridges," was filmed in the People's Republic of China.
Allen was a leader in causes of ethical concerns. From 1960 to 1968, he was director of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and in 1962, conducted the first state workshop on Christianity and Race Relations in Southern Baptist history. He served on the Planning Conference for the first White House Conference on Civil Rights. He was committed to the separation of church and state, and from 1973 to 1978 served as president of Americans United.
He served as a non-governmental observer at the United Nations (1962). In 1974 he received the Citation of Merit from the Government of Honduras for humanitarian service in the wake of a natural disaster. He led a fact-finding mission to Iran during the hostage crisis at the United States Embassy in Teheran (1979-80) and was one of the few Americans to meet personally with the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Allen's book, “Burden of a Secret”, is a personal account of his family's struggles as a transfusion-related HIV virus caused the death of his two grandchildren and their mother. That experience was the basis of a call to churches to banish fear of AIDS.
In 2008-09, he served as program chair and coordinator for the New Baptist Covenant, a pan-Baptist gathering spearheaded by former President Jimmy Carter, promoting racial unity.
Allen's earned degrees include a Bachelor of Arts from Howard Payne University, a Bachelor of Divinity and a Doctorate of Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the recipient of five honorary doctorates.
Allen was preceded in death by two sons, Michael Allen and Stephen Allen; three grandchildren; and his wife of 52 years, Wanda Allen. He is survived by his wife of 14 years, Linda Allen and a son Benjamin Allen of Lake Tahoe.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the national organization of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500, Decatur, GA 30030; or the New Baptist Covenant, 601 50th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20019.