James E. Bird Jr., fondly known as “Papa Jim”, passed away on Saturday, March 20, 2021 at the age of 83. He lived in Chapin, SC with his wife of 61 years, Betsy Banks Bird. Jim was born on March 28, 1937 in Columbia, SC and was a graduate of Columbia High School (’55) and The Citadel (’59). He proudly served in the US Army from 1960-1990, to include time spent in Germany and Vietnam earning the Bronze Star, eventually retiring as a Full Colonel.
Jim was a successful banker with SC National Bank, and then transitioned into the insurance business with Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the Equitable Life Insurance Companies. Jim was very successful in every endeavor he pursued. His passion however, was always driven by a desire to serve his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His desire seeking after Godly things was the measure of his life. Jim served in many capacities at both First Baptist Church and Darlington Presbyterian Church where he felt led to a full time ministry position serving Precept Ministries in Chattanooga, TN. He served faithfully from 1980-1998 primarily teaching pastors worldwide how to effectively study the bible as the Director of International Ministries visiting over 50 countries in total.
In 1998 Jim and Betsy returned to Darlington to care for ailing parents, where Jim became the International Director for Hope for the Heart Ministries, continuing his passion for teaching Gods word around the world. Jim studied to become a Lay Pastor for the SC Presbytery and pastored churches in McBee, Marion and Florence. He served on the board of Market Life Ministries as one of the Three Wise Men, supporting the ministry founded by his younger son, Brad Bird. His love for God, his family and his country was often rivaled by his love of golf. He played weekly up until his final month on Earth. Jim will always be remembered as the kindest man, the best father, the best grandfather and the best husband ever created, and will be dearly missed by family, friends and the countless people he encountered and mentored literally around the world. He was a member of River City Chapel, pastored by his youngest son, Brad. Jim’s military and civil careers allowed him and his wife to travel to beautiful places all over the world. He finally settled in Chapin, SC in 2016 with his Son Treye where he was surrounded by a wonderful group of family, friends and neighbors.
He leaves behind the love of his life of 61 years, Betsy Banks Bird; his two sons, Treye (Marina) Bird of Chapin, SC and Brad (Melissa) Bird of Blythewood, SC; eight wonderful grandchildren, Rachel (Ethan) Mongin, Wesley (Katya) Bird, Caroline Bird, Karis (Jordan) Loewen, Lizzie Bird, Anna-Bradley Bird, Alex Pritchard and Adriana Pritchard; and a younger sibling, Nancy (Billy) Rivers of Chesterfield, SC.
A memorial service will be held 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 24th at Darlington Presbyterian Church, directed by Belk Funeral Home. The family will receive friends following the service at the church. Live streaming of the service will be available through Darlington Presbyterian Church website, Dpchopeingod.org.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Marketlife Ministries, where Jim served as a board member and teacher since 2000: Marketlifeministries.org, 1341 Bookman Loop, Winnsboro, SC 29180.
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