Jim Pierson, a longtime professor and cherished friend of Johnson University, passed away January 4th after a battle with cancer. Jim began teaching at Johnson in 1960 and throughout the past 58 years has instructed, encouraged, and blessed generations of students.
Jim is known around the world for his work in special education and disability ministry. In addition to serving as a professor at a number of colleges and universities, he led several organizations dedicated to serving those with special needs, including the Knoxville Cerebral Palsy Center and East Tennessee Children's Rehabilitation Center. In 1981 he led a team to discuss how the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ could serve people with disabilities; this led to the founding of the Christian Churches Disability Ministry, where Jim served as president until his retirement in 2011.
"I worked with Jim at Johnson for nearly 50 years and respected him highly," says Dr. David Eubanks. "He had a profound impact on multitudes of students, including my brother-in-law Roy Norville, who gave Jim much credit for helping him overcome a chronic stuttering problem to become a powerful preacher."
Jim also authored several books, including resources to help church leaders welcome and include people with disabilities, and "Just Like Everybody Else," a book to help children understand their disabled peers. He toured Australia in the summer of 1981 at the invitation of Crossroads International, serving as a guest speaker for the International Year of the Disabled Person, and he received the 2003 Henri Nouwen Award which acknowledges individuals who reflect compassion, commitment, and dedication to ministry as well as servanthood that values and esteems people with developmental disabilities.
Jim was a member of Woodlawn Christian Church in Knoxville where he served in many capacities including elder, chairman of the Disability Ministry team, and Sunday school teacher.
We grieve the loss of Jim while celebrating his strong faith and the legacy of his life. Please join us in praying for Jim's wife Norma and his children and grandchildren.
Jim Pierson Scholarship Fund:
The family has created the Jim Pierson Scholarship Fund at Johnson and requests that gifts be given to this fund in lieu of flowers. Donations for the fund can be made on the JU website and designated in honor of Jim at or by check.