James R. Graves

James R. Graves, Southern Baptist preacher, editor, and publisher, was the dominant leader of Landmarkism, a movement whose advocates asserted the sole validity and unbroken succession of Baptist churches from the New Testament era. Born into a Congregational family in Vermont, he joined a Baptist church at age fifteen. Although a self-educated man with little formal training, Graves diligently pursued private study and became a schoolteacher. He taught at Kingville, Ohio (1840-42), and later in Jessamine County, Kentucky (1842-43). Ordained into the Baptist ministry in 1842, he preached in Ohio (1843-45) before taking a teaching position in Nashville in 1845.

In 1848, after a brief pastorate in Nashville, Graves became editor of the Tennessee Baptist. He made his greatest contributions in journalism and publishing. By the eve of the Civil War, the Tennessee Baptist had the largest circulation (thirteen thousand in 1859) of any southern denominational paper. Not strictly a religious newspaper, the Tennessee Baptist provided controversial commentary on numerous contemporary political and social topics. In addition to its impact in Tennessee, it was the denomination's journal for Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and most of the lower Mississippi Valley. Graves also formed a publishing company that became one of the most influential and prolific religious presses in the South during the first few decades after the Civil War. Through his controversial writings, Graves attempted to make Landmarkism appeal both to Christian primitivism and popular American concepts of democracy.

Suggested Reading

J. E. Tull, Shapers of Baptist Thought (1972)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title James R. Graves
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date April 21, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018