A Tribute to a friend

By O.C. Birdwell

Since January of 1977 James Yates has been a dedicated, loyal, and loved member of the board of directors of the Guardian of Truth Foundation. At the annual board meeting for 1993, he asked to be relieved of his duties on the board. He has given 16 years of work that has been far beyond the call of duty. His work has been a labor of love. James retired from his business in Houston, Texas, and for the past two or three years has often expressed the need to leave our board. Because we encouraged him to do so, he stayed on until this past year. We reluctantly give him up. His kind is difficult to find.

James and his good wife Mildred are well known by many Christians throughout the world. The apostle Paul said, “But let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Gal. 6:6). The Yates do just that. Many gospel preachers have enjoyed their friendship and hospitality. Harry Pickup, Jr. said, “James Yates is a preacher’s friend.” He loves the truth and encourages and supports those teach the truth. For a number of years, he was an elder in the Fry Road congregation of Houston, and is also on the Akin Foundation Board.

It is no wonder that his good friend Roy Cogdill wanted him on the board of the Cogdill Foundation, which is now the Guardian of Truth Foundation. He had something to offer. He has provided his considerable expertise, who encouragement, and support in many ways. I remember once when a questionable proposal was made and encouraged upon the board, James said, “That would be the greatest possible conflict of interest.” His observation moved the board in the right direction, for which we all are thankful. In January of 1984, a decision was made to move the business to Bowling Green, Kentucky in the month of June of that ho year. As late as May not have a building we did business. Mike Willis said, “Call brother Yates.” I immediately got him on the phone and said, “James, we need you to come to Bowling Green. We have gotten exactly nowhere in getting a building that we can afford.” His answer was, “This is the busiest time of the year for me and I do not need to be away from my business. However, if you insist, I will come to Bowling Green.” I insisted. He was in Bowling Green the next day and stayed two days. When he left we had bought a building with a monthly payment we could afford. He took three or four days from his work, paid his own air fare from Houston, Texas, bought his own food, and paid for his own motel room. James Yates has done this type of thing over and over again.

James became one of the directors of this foundation at a critical time. It was at a time of conflict and controversy relative to what was called the “grace-unity movement.” The Truth Magazine editor, associate editors, and writers had taken a firm stand against the false teaching of that movement. Subs had been canceled and criticism abounded. Soon after James come on the board, decisions had to be made about securing a new editor for the paper, revising classroom material, printing a commentary set, moving the business to Bowling Green, and many other vital issues that related to the continued existence of the business. James was equal to the task and entered into the long hours of discussion and decision making with helpful input and enthusiasm. No one on this board has been more highly regarded than James Yates. He not only talked about our needs; he put his money where his mouth was. When the decision was made to publish a commentary set that would cost a large sum of money, James agreed to give several thousand dollars toward the printing. Because of this work we hope to soon have a good, dependable set of commentaries on the New Testament.

I do not want to conclude without a personal observation or two that comes from the very depth of my heart. It is an honor for me to believe that James Yates is my friend. No one’s friendship is regarded more highly. Ten years ago, I, with the able assistance of my son Alan and the co-labor of my wife Frances, agreed to manage the business of Guardian of Truth Foundation. The success we have had has not come just from our labors, but from the cooperative planning and unwavering support given to Alan and me by our president, Fred Pollock, our editor Mike Willis, and for the past eight years, every other member of our board. James Yates has been a vital part of that board. He is not a “yes” man. He would be rightly offended if he were so regarded. I forth-rightly say, however, that I have never had, and never expect to have, greater support and encouragement than what he has given Alan and me in managing the business of this company. James, one reason we love you is for what you have done for us. May God bless you and your lovely wife, Mildred.

This plaque was presented to James and Mildred Yates by the Guardian of Truth Foundation in a private ceremony in Tampa, Florida.

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 4, p. 14-15
February 17, 1994