By Executive Director J. Brent Walker

A great friend of religious liberty and Baptists everywhere passed away in March. Richard E. Ice was a longtime member of the Baptist Joint Committee Board of Directors and a leader in American Baptist life who modeled service by sharing his talents and gifts and following the passions of his life.

Dick’s career path is unlike most, and it is a testimony to his dedication to use his unique gifts to further causes he cared about. After working in banking, he changed career directions and earned a master’s degree from the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, which is today known as American Baptist Seminary of the West.

Dick led a congregation in Seattle, but found his true calling in sustaining church ministries. After stints in denominational leadership, he became the president of American Baptist Homes of the West (ABHOW) in 1972 and held that position until he retired in 1995. According to the organization, Ice not only positioned ABHOW as a leading provider, but “his theological and philosophical skills made him an articulate champion of older adults and mission-driven enterprises.”

Dick was a lifelong student, always eager to learn more and sharpen his skills for service to others. During his career, Dick completed the Advanced Management Program of Harvard Business School, and he later received not one but two honorary doctorates.

And, during all of this, Dick was also focused on the fight for religious liberty, serving faithfully on the BJC board and sharing his time and resources with us. Dick’s commitment to the BJC did not end with his death — he chose to ensure his legacy by including the BJC in his estate plans.

Upon his passing, Dick’s family established the Dr. Richard Ice Memorial Fund with the BJC. If you would like to remember Dick with a gift to the BJC, you can do so online at or by mailing a check to our office. Dick’s family will be notified of all gifts, and a full listing of memorials will appear in an upcoming edition of Report from the Capital.

I was honored to be asked to speak at Dick’s memorial service in Oakland, Calif. Below are my remarks from that event.

Let’s all strive to be like Dick Ice, giving of our talents to ministries around us. If we can do so with half of his humor and humility, then we can count ourselves successful. We will miss Dick, but his legacy will be ever present.

Words of Brent Walker at the memorial service of Richard E. Ice

Dick Ice was a collaborator in the fight for religious liberty, a personal mentor and a good friend.

His contributions to the BJC were incalculable. He served on the Baptist Joint Committee board for 41 years — about one half of the span of his life — missing only one board meeting, when he got sick on a trip to Russia and could not get back to Washington in time.

Dick’s business acumen was invaluable as chair of the BJC Endowment Committee. Yet he was not just a financial guru. He understood and appreciated Baptist principles and the American concept of the separation of church and state like few others. He was also an astute student of history who could call up the words of our Founders on the spur of the moment and, with only a little more preparation from his breast pocket file cabinet, make scholarly presentations on James Madison.

How appropriate, and overdue, it was in 2011 for Dick to receive the American Baptist Home Mission Society’s Religious Freedom Award and the BJC’s J.M. Dawson Religious Liberty award — our most prestigious accolade — joining the likes of President Jimmy Carter, Bill Moyers, Aidsand Wright-Riggins and Buddy Shurden.

Yes, Dick was a champion for religious liberty, but also for me, he was a mentor and friend. When I would encounter a problem, whether it be BJC finances, a difficult church/state issue, a question about Baptist polity or politics, he was always ready and willing to talk and give sage advice — not to mention those wonderful unsolicited articles and cartoons he would cut out and send.

And, just on a personal level, I remember fondly when I came to First Baptist Church Seattle to preach, he invited me to stay with him at his condo. Knowing I was a huge baseball fan,

Dick arranged for us to go to a Mariners game at Safeco Field and also a boat ride to an island — I guess some place out in Puget Sound — where a group of Native Americans cooked a fabulous meal of salmon and fixins on an open outdoor fire. Dick also understood how to have a good time and share it with friends!

Dick’s many contributions to the BJC have advanced the cause of religious liberty and his many acts of kindness and hospitality have embellished my life uniquely.

Thank you, Dick, my colleague, mentor and friend, and thanks be to God for the life of Dick Ice.

From the April 2014 Report from the Capital. Click here for the next article.