James Henry Melançon, 94, born May 8, 1926, to the late Ethel Alfretta Kershaw Melançon and Clifford Brown Melançon Sr., pastor, in Lutcher, Louisiana, died November 14, 2020. He was the oldest of 13 children, and received his education in the public school system in New Orleans, Louisiana. Following high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy. After successful completion of boot camp at Camp Moffett in Great Lakes, Illinois, Melançon served as a combat line mechanic, stationed in Hawaii during World War II.
Eager to expand his academic skills, he applied to and was accepted into the University of Southern California’s (USC) College of Aeronautics. He graduated from USC with an associate degree in aeronautical engineering. Following graduation, he felt called to pastoral ministry, and matriculated to Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in Huntsville, Alabama, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in theology.
Following graduation from Oakwood, he enrolled in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where he became the second Black American, after his teacher Ernest Eugene Rogers, Ph.D., to receive a degree in biblical languages. Melançon accepted a job teaching Bible, history, and art at Los Angeles Seventh-day Adventist Academy, after which he accepted a post as associate pastor at the Compton Avenue Church in Compton, California. He was then appointed to become pastor of the Holmes Avenue Church, and successfully led his congregation to a new church home, Miramonte Boulevard Church in Los Angeles.
It was in the city of Los Angeles where he first saw and fell in love with Artie Helen Smith, the daughter of Edith Rosa Carter Smith and Clarence Milam Smith. The two were wed at the Wadsworth Seventh-day Adventist Church, with William C. Webb officiating.
Their union was blessed with the addition of two children, Artie Teresa Melançon Suri and James Marc Melançon.
Following successful pastoral duties in California, Melançon accepted a position to teach biblical languages in the Religion Department at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. During his tenure, he developed technologically advanced learning resources for biblical language students.
After seven years at Union College, he accepted a position to join the Theology Department at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, at the encouragement of his mentor, Ernest Eugene Rogers, Ph.D.
Melançon’s presence and commitment to the college’s purpose and mission was immediately felt at Oakwood. He built a state-of-the-art language laboratory complete with individualized cubicles, cassette recorders, studio headphones, and interactive guides. He was also active on campus with his professional photography skills.
Among all of his accomplishments, Melançon considered his signal accomplishment to be the more than six decades he spent in pastoral and educational leadership for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He believed his service to the Church to be a blessed privilege extended to him by the Lord Jesus Christ to whom he sought to offer his life in daily service.
He rests alongside his recently deceased wife, Artie. He is survived by his daughter, Artie Teresa (Teri) Melançon Suri; his son, James Marc Melançon; his grandson, Sham Sunder Suri II; two brothers-in-law, Craig Smith and his wife, Alison, and Charles Smith and his wife, Myrna; four sisters, Joyce NuMan and her husband Imam Rafeeq NuMan, Antoinette Sam and her husband, Gary, Paulette Larkin, and Doris Winzer; three brothers, Anthony and his wife, Antoinette, Joseph, and Charles; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cherished friends. In addition to his parents, Ethyl and Clifford Sr., he was preceded in death by his stepmother, Cora Jones Melançon; his sisters, Gloria Bourgeois, Helen, and Paula Mae; and his brothers, Clifford Jr., and Alcee.
Oakwood University | April 2021