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John Durham

May 29, 1933 October 27, 2022
John Durham
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Obituary for John Durham

John I Durham (May 29, 1933 -October 27, 2022)

John Durham, 89, of Watkinsville, GA passed away on October 27th, 2022. He was born in Bucyrus, OH on May 29th, 1933 to the late John Isaac Durham and Lula Frances Jackson Durham. After spending most of his boyhood in North Carolina, where he delighted in the trains that ran close to his house and the westerns that played at the movies on Saturdays, he received his BA from Wake Forest College in 1955.

After college Dr. Durham continued the course of study that would be his life’s work. While completing his Bachelor of Divinity (1959) and Master of Theology (1961) degrees at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, he served as pastor to both the Dobson Chapel Baptist Church (Rose Hill, NC) and Sharon Baptist Church (Chinquapin, NC). He taught Latin at Meredith College in Raleigh from 1955 to 1956.

In 1957 Dr. Durham married Judith Allen Harvell of Wallace, NC, with whom he would eventually adopt two children: Gwynne Jocelyn in 1966 and John Jeremy in 1972.

Dr. Durham earned his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1963 and for the next twenty-five years was Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Seminary. He loved sharing his passion for theology, music, art, and travel; and when he wasn’t in the seminary classroom, he lectured, preached, and taught at churches and universities throughout the southeast and abroad. He wrote widely on Old Testament themes, serving as Consulting Editor for the Broadman Bible Commentary and writing the commentary on Psalms for that series (1971). He subsequently wrote commentary on Exodus for the Word Biblical Commentary series (1987), Understanding the Basic Themes of Exodus (1990), and The Biblical Rembrandt: Human Painter in a Landscape of Faith (2004).

Throughout his career Dr. Durham found ways to pay tribute to the minds that had nurtured his. With J. Roy Porter he edited and contributed to Proclamation and Presence: Old Testament Essays in Honour of Gwynne Henton Davies (1970); and in 1993, after the death of his dear friend and colleague, he assembled and edited Worship Beyond the Usual: An Echo of the Voice of John W. Carlton.

Upon retiring from the seminary in1988, Dr. Durham remarried. For the next six years he and his wife Betty served the Greenwich Baptist Church in Greenwich, CT, where the congregation dubbed them “the pastoral pair.” In 1994 they retired to Big Island, VA, close to where Dr. Durham had spent summers at his grandmother’s as a boy. The next nearly twenty years were filled with gardening, reading, travel, and art.

In 2013, the year both John and Betty turned eighty, they relocated to Georgia, living first in Watkinsville and later in Greensboro, closer to Betty’s son and daughter-in-law. After a series of hospitalizations in 2022, Dr. Durham spent the last months of his life in the care of the remarkable staff at Lynn Haven Health and Rehab in Gray.

Dr. Durham is survived by his wife of thirty-four years, Betty Bethea Durham of Eatonton, GA; daughter Gwynne Durham of Vershire, VT; son John J. Durham of Wake Forest, NC; stepson Greg Cottrell (Vicki Cottrell) of Eatonton, GA; and stepson John Cottrell Jr. (Leesa Cottrell) of Columbia, SC. He leaves behind four grandchildren: Megan Vette, Kelly Farrelly (Rob Farrelly), Todd Cottrell (Jungeun Cottrell), and John Cottrell III. He is also survived by six great-grandchildren: Owen Vette, Wyatt Vette, Rosalie Farrelly, Madelyn Farrelly, Leo Cottrell, and Ella Cottrell.

The family wishes to express our deep gratitude to the staff at Lynn Haven for their patient and generous care for Dr. Durham and for us. We are also indebted to the wonderful nurses at Affinis Hospice for their expert support through his last days.

A celebration of Dr. Durham’s life is planned for later in the spring. Memorial contributions can be made to Affinis Hospice, c/o Community Health Foundation, 1005 Boulder Drive, Gray, GA 30142. (Pease make checks payable to Community Health Foundation and note that your donation is designated for Affinis Hospice.)

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