Dr. John Willis Flowers, 94, passed away on April 12, 2018 at Senatobia Healthcare and Rehab. Born November 29, 1923 in Magnolia, MS to Harmon S. Flowers and Annie Roe Flowers, Dr. Flowers grew up near McComb and early in his life felt the calling into pastoral ministry. He was greatly influenced by Dr. Robert Hughes, pastor of his home church, Navilla Baptist in McComb. During high school he worked as a store clerk and after graduating from Fernwood High School, joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and served in the European Theater. While stationed in San Luis Obispo, CA in 1945 right before his discharge home to Mississippi, he met Jessie Babb. The couple wrote letters for 2 ½ years carrying on a long distance romance, married in August, 1948 and moved to Mississippi to build their ministry together.
Dr. Flowers began working to fulfill his lifelong ambition after military service by graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Mississippi College in Clinton and then receiving a Bachelor of Divinity, a Master of Religious Education and a Doctorate of Religious Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was ordained at Navilla Baptist Church on July 7, 1947 and went on to serve as Pastor of Shady Grove Baptist Church in Lincoln County, MS, as Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church, McComb, MS and then as Pastor of First Baptist Church Senatobia for over 33 years where he retired in 1992 and was named Pastor Emeritus.
Dr. Flowers had a God-given talent for reaching out and caring for people of all ages. While pastoring at FBC, he was a favorite of the children because of the unique and simple way he interacted with them. He stated that as a child, he was afraid of the pastor and didn’t want children in his own congregation to be afraid of him. So if a child would come speak to him, a stick of gum awaited. That led to pockets of gum handed out every week. Needless to say, children couldn’t wait to visit him.
Through the years, he became a regular at Wal-Mart when he decided that walking multiple laps around the interior of the building could help him stay in shape. He knew employees by name and greeted them as he walked, asking about family and keeping up to date with people. Those trips were usually followed daily by greeting every patient in the Nursing Home and those who worked there. He was indeed a lover of people.
Dr. Flowers was also an accomplished poet and writer and could recite from memory multiple verses of poetry and scripture and did so until the last week of his life. He also was a master gardener with gorgeous contributions to the community both in home and church settings, being awarded Yard of the Month on more than one occasion.
Although quiet and unassuming, he was involved in many facets of community and denominational life and leadership roles including membership in the Rotary Club, Civitan Club, Tate County Soil and Conservation Society, Tate County Ministerial Alliance, honored as Citizen of the Year, and served on the MS Baptist Convention Board and was a member of the Historical Society of MS Baptists. He also taught Bible, Ethics and World Religion among other courses at Northwest MS Community College in Senatobia.
Dr. Flowers who once said his job was not getting people into heaven, but getting heaven into people, has now experienced that wonderful destination and heard the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
He is survived by his wife, Jessie B. Flowers of Senatobia, MS; daughters, Becky Wallace (Charles) of Brandon, MS; Rachel Roberts (Steven) of Cordova, TN and Ruth Patch of Rutland, MA; sisters, Donnis Mae Kahl of Natchez, MS and Melba Pine of Dayton, OH; 6 grandchildren, John Wallace (Hannah), Elizabeth Wallace Moore (Chris), Daniel Roberts (Emily), Olivia Roberts; Tim Patch (Alexandra) and Amy Patch; and 4 great grandchildren, Ivy Wallace, Zeritu “ZZ” Wallace, Emerson Moore and Evangeline Roberts. He was preceded in death by his parents, Harmon S. and Annie Elizabeth Flowers and his infant son, Philip Murrell Flowers.
Memorials may be sent to First Baptist Church Senatobia Building Fund.