(b. Lincolnshire, England, Mar. 19, 1804; d. Richmond, Va., Dec. 22, 1871). Pastor and foreign mission leader. After coming to America with his parents in 1805, Taylor spent 12 years in New York. He persuaded his father, who had been inclined toward infidelity, to go into a church they were passing when they were attracted by the music. First his parents and then Taylor were converted and baptized into the fellowship of the First Baptist Church, New York. The family moved to Virginia in 1817. Licensed to preach in 1824, Taylor was ordained two years later and became pastor of the Second Baptist Church, Richmond. Although not a preacher of superior ability, he devoted a great deal of time to pastoral visitation.
On the basis of recommendations by a committee of which Taylor was a member, the Virginia Baptist Education Society was organized in 1830. The school, which opened in Oct., 1830, as a result of the previous action, evolved into the Virginia Baptist Seminary, with Taylor as one of the trustees. In 1839 he became chaplain of the University of Virginia but later returned to Richmond as pastor of the Third (later Grace Street) Baptist Church.
When the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention was constituted, Taylor was urged to accept the secretaryship. He wrestled with the choice between the pastorate and the mission board and finally decided to remain with Grace Church, although he agreed to give two days a week to the service of the board and to make a tour of the South in behalf of foreign missions. Just before leaving on tour, Taylor met Adoniram Judson, missionary home on furlough in Richmond. As Taylor traveled, the conviction deepened that he should give his life to the foreign mission enterprise, and as a result he served as secretary of the Foreign Mission Board for 26 years. Through the Civil War and reconstruction period when the Southern Baptist Convention did not meet every year, Taylor kept the organization intact. By private and public appeals, he secured money for immediate and for future needs. In 1855 Columbian College conferred on Taylor the honorary D.D. degree. Taylor was author of Memoir of Luther Rice, Life of Lott Carey, and Lives of Virginia Baptist Ministers (First and Second series).
Taylor, George Boardman. Life and times of James B. Taylor, 1872.
Watkins, L. Rees. Faith stories: when faith prevailed; stories in the lives of ten Virginia Baptist men and women of great faith, 1997.
Archival sources in the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.
Compere, Ebenezer Lee. Papers, 1852-1945. AR. 2.
Day, John. Missionary correspondence, 1846-1859. AR. 551-2.
Hartwell Family. Missionary correspondence, 1857-1961. AR. 551-2.
Southern Baptist Convention. Foreign Mission Board. Historical Files, 1845-1986. AR. 551-8.