Dr. James M. Dunn, 1932-2015

James M. Dunn, the firebrand Baptist who led the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty for nearly two decades, died on July 4, 2015, at the age of 83. Known for his stalwart defense of religious liberty, colorful turns of phrase and ubiquitous bow tie, Dunn will be remembered for his contributions throughout Baptist life, including his leadership of the Baptist Joint Committee through the 1980s and 90s. Watch his memorial service.

“The 20th century had no greater champion of religious freedom – of conscience – than James Dunn,” said Oliver “Buzz” Thomas, who served as BJC general counsel from 1985-1993.  “Like Roger Williams, John Leland, George W. Truett and the other great Baptist leaders before him, James understood the dangers of civil religion.”

You can help preserve Dr. Dunn’s legacy by donating to the Baptist Joint Committee’s educational programs in his memory.


  • Served in Texas as pastor, campus minister, and director of the Christian Life Commission

  • Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee from 1981-1999

  • Among many Washington accomplishments, he advocated with the BJC for the Equal Access Act and Religious Freedom Restoration Act


To countless Baptists, James Dunn was an instrumental influence (Aaron Weaver, author of James M. Dunn and Soul Freedom)

Dunn Deals (Bill Leonard, James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies)

Remembering James Dunn: Baptist Champion of Religious Freedom (Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State)

James Dunn: Invested in the Next Generation
(Mark Batten, School of Divinity at Wake Forest University)

Click here for a list of other remembrances

Truth with the Bark on It:
The wit and wisdom of James Dunn


Dunn wit and wisdom pull quote


Click the photo above
to read more of Dr. Dunn’s
most memorable quotes





Podcast: Brent Walker remembers James Dunn

JBW and JE podcast
Shortly after Dr. Dunn passed away, BJC Executive Director Brent Walker sat down to share some of his favorite James Dunn stories and quotations from 26 years of friendship.


James M. Dunn Memorial Service


Held on July 18, 2015, at Knollwood Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., the service features tributes from friends and colleagues. Click here to download a PDF with the text of Bill Leonard’s homily.