A longtime friend of Liberty University went to be with the Lord on Monday, April 5. Jesse Odell Grooms, known to everyone as “J.O.,” died of cardiovascular issues at the age of 86.
Grooms was a professor at Liberty throughout the 1970s and ’80s. He taught soul winning and evangelism.
“Rev. J.O. Grooms was one of the cornerstones of the LU faculty in the school’s early days. He taught large evangelism courses that all freshmen were required to take, and he taught them with a passion,” said Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., who was one of his students in 1980. “He believed fervently that Scripture memorization and soul winning were essential in the Christian life. … Rev. Grooms practiced what he preached daily and will be greatly missed.”
Liberty co-founder Dr. Elmer Towns said Grooms was a great asset to Liberty in its early years.
“He was the first teacher of evangelism, the very first year. The greatest thing about him was not just that he was a good teacher, a thorough teacher, but he communicated the heart and passion for people and soul winning.”
Grooms’ wife, Albertina, was dean of women at Liberty for two years. Together they have been faithful members of Thomas Road Baptist Church. Towns said many in the congregation were won to Christ by J.O., with people often asking him to go visit family members and share the message of salvation with them.
Towns said Grooms studied under J. Frank Norris at First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, and then pastored churches in the state. He also worked with John Rawlings at Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati.
But Grooms is perhaps best known for founding the Treasure Path to Soul Winning ministry in 1969. His booklet series by the same name was distributed worldwide and translated into many languages. Grooms’ close friend, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., often promoted the books on TV.
After Liberty, Grooms entered the mission field full time. He spent many years in India, where he planted hundreds of churches and built more than 60 orphanages.
“His heart was really in India,” said Renee Grooms, his daughter-in-law who was also once a student of Grooms and now works in Towns’ office at Liberty. “J.O. has a unique ministry and there will be thousands in Heaven, if not millions, because of his efforts.”
J.O. and Albertina were married for 64 years and have lived in Lynchburg for 40 years. They have five children, 15 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. Their children are all involved in ministry and four of them are LU graduates; Mark Grooms is the pastor at Thomas Terrace Baptist Church in Concord, Va.; Mike Grooms is the pastor at Rainbow Forest Baptist Church in Troutville, Va.; Janet Baldis is in full-time missions in Slovakia; Lynda Smith lives and works in Tampa, Fla.; and Beverly Riggins is married to a pastor in New Cumberland, Pa.
Several family members were able to be at Grooms’ side when he died, singing “Rock of Ages” around his bed.
A viewing is being held today (Tuesday, April 6) at Oakey’s Funeral Home in Bonsack, Va. from 6 to 8 p.m. A private family gravesite service is planned for Wednesday.
A public memorial service is planned for May 1 at 10 a.m. at Thomas Road Baptist Church, with the Rev. Jonathan Falwell officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be sent to Treasure Path to Soul Winning, specifically marked for “pastors in India.”