Priest, James M.
James Priest was an African American Presbyterian missionary in Liberia. Little is known of his early life. He was raised a slave and belonged to a “Mrs. Means” of Lexington, Kentucky, who emancipated her slaves in 1832 in order to send them to Africa. In 1843 Priest graduated from New Albany Theological Seminary in Chicago (now McCormick Theological Seminary). He and his wife, Ann, sailed to Liberia in the spring of the same year as missionaries of the Northern Presbyterian Church. They were first appointed to the station at Settra Kroo, and in 1844 were transferred to King Will’s Town. Priest organized a church at Kentucky in 1847. After four years at King Will’s Town, he was moved to Greenville. He spent the rest of his life serving the church and community there. As founder of the Presbyterian Church at Greenville, he erected a small church building and doubled the membership. He also conducted a Sabbath and day school. His ministry was largely among the Americo-Liberian colonists, but he had a friendly relationship with indigenous Liberians. The Priests had at least five children. Ann Priest died in 1880. After 40 years of service in Liberia, Priest died at Greenville.
Sylvia M. Jacobs
Arthur Judson Brown, One Hundred Years: A History of the Foreign Missionary Work of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1936); William Rankin, Memorials of Foreign Missionaries of the Presbyterian Church USA (1895).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.