“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her own hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:30-31).
You can’t pay tribute to a lifelong pastor’s wife without talking about her husband also.
Mrs. James “Cissa” Richardson went to Heaven over the weekend. Her husband, Dr. James Richardson, longtime pastor and dear friend and mentor, had preceded her by 15 years or more. I miss him every day.
Cissa was 90 years old. I knew her wonderful mother. Mrs. Alexander, of Cleveland, MS, was as lovely and charming as her daughters Cissa and Toni (Antoinette Myers). In the late 1960s Mrs. Alexander would listen to my daily radio program from Greenville, MS, and was always gracious in her comments.
The Richardsons pastored the First Baptist Church of Leland, MS for some 25 years, followed by another 15 or so at FBC Madison MS. Wherever they went, they were wonderfully used of the Lord.
Margaret and I came to know the Richardsons in the late 1960s when we went to pastor in Greenville, MS, a few miles west of Leland. We quickly came to see James was made of different stuff from all the other pastor friends we knew. When we needed a marriage counselor–as we did several times in our 52 years of marital bliss (Margaret would roll her eyes at that)–James was willing to help us. That forever bonded us.
Their children were teens back then. Twins Jay and Gary, daughter Vivian, and young son Ian. It was a lovely family in every way.
James recommended me to the staff of FBC Jackson MS at the end of 1970. As we made plans to move to the capital city, he came to see me. “I’ve bought some new suits, Joe,” he said. He paused and said, “Would you be offended if I gave you my old suits?”
Offended nothing. I was thrilled. Life was hard, money was scarce, and my closet needed serious attention. He presented me with seven of the most beautiful suits you’ve ever seen. If memory serves correctly, they didn’t even need altering. I quickly became the best dressed minister on the staff of my new church (according to a secretary who said that to her husband)!
In 1976, James recommended me as a trustee of the SBC Foreign Mission Board. I served for four amazing years, getting to know the venerable Baker James Cauthen, serving on the search committee for his replacement (Keith Parks), and making a mission trip of my own to Singapore the next year.
Sometime in the late 1970s I nominated James as president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. In a large field of candidates, he won without a runoff, he was so well-loved and respected. A friend chided me. “Had I known he would have accepted it, I would have nominated him years ago!”
Cissa loved her man. James spoke to me often of their relationship. She accompanied him to conventions and we all shared many a meal together. Cissa was church pianist (organist? not sure) and a piano teacher through the years.
I still laugh about something Cissa said over 40 years ago. A half-dozen couples–all pastors and wives–were sitting around in a restaurant in Jackson. Somehow the conversation turned toward a preacher who had lost his ministry because of his infidelities. In the course of the conversation, Sandra Gunn said, “I don’t worry about Frank. Frank is too afraid of God to do that.” Dr. Frank Gunn said, “You’ve got that right.”
At this point, Cissa Richardson said, “I don’t worry about James. He’s too busy fooling with his pipe to have time for that.” The group burst out in laughter.
I visited in their home many a time over the years. After their retirement, I enjoyed dropping by their Madison, MS, home and sharing the occasional meal. Their home was always lovely and classy.
Lovely and classy. Neat and bright and filled with joy.
Just like Cissa.