The journey of life for James Sylvester Newburn began on March 17, 1933, near or around the small community of Mt. Morriah, in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He was the 7th child of 12 children born to Rev. J. S. and Josie Ella Knox Newburn who pastored Mt. Morriah Missionary Baptist Church for over 30 years. His parents taught him to adhere to high morals, spiritual and educational values.
“Syl” as he was commonly called attended Peake High School. On April 23, 1953 at the age of 20 he enlisted into the United States Army to embark on opportunities that weren’t typically offered to African-Americans in the south. While in the Army he worked as a heavy vehicle driver and made lasting friendships and bonds. He was honorably discharged on April 22, 1955 and served his country well.
A man who was no stranger to hard work, he created opportunities for himself. He started Newburn Logging and worked at Reynolds Metal Company for over 19 years. Syl met and married Betty and they were blessed with 4 children. He loved his family dearly and showered them with an abundance of love. He was a stalwart provider, giving his family the opportunity to enjoy the finer things that life offered.
He was a simple man who enjoyed fishing, hunting, and gardening. He was a He loved baseball and back in the day he was the pitcher for the Mt. Morriah Hawks. Although tall in stature, he had a gentle and loving heart. He was a mason, former member of Excelsior Universal No.13 Lodge and the J.C. Corbin Consistory No. 204 Stephens, Arkansas.
He was a life-long member of Mt. Morriah Missionary Baptist Church having joined under the leadership of his father. He taught Sunday school and it was then that he made the permanent commitment to serve the Lord. He answered his call to preach and in 1976 accepted his first pastoral assignment at Union Grove Baptist Church in Bluff City, Arkansas until 1985. In 1986, he was called to pastor Greater St. Luke Baptist Church in Fulton, Arkansas where he labored for 37 years. He retired in 2013 and served as an associate minister at Mt. Morriah Baptist Church until his passing.
His favorite bible passage was John 14:1-4. He attended bible study faithfully, continued to attend Sunday school and worship services regularly until his health started to decline.
His pilgrimage was modest, but full and fulfilling. Syl, did it his way. On Thursday, January 5, 2017, he slipped the bonds of this life for a life in eternity. His independent spirit, iron will and strong character will never be duplicated, but leaves an impression on the lives of those he touched and enriched along this life’s journey.
Syl was preceded in death by his parents; six brothers, Henry L. Newburn, Albert Newburn, Cleveland Maurice Newburn (2005), Rev. Franklin Newburn (2006), Willie A. Newburn (2007), Carl E. Newburn (2011) and J. V. Newburn (2016); and two sisters, Carola Wilson (2005), and Flossie Morgan (2010).
He leaves to continue and cherish his legacy, his children: twin sons, Aubrey and Anthony Newburn of Arkadelphia; daughters, Deborah (Jackie) Cotledge of Arkadelphia and Rochell (EJ Outley, Jr.) Piggee of Arkadelphia; two granddaughters, Porchia Cotledge of Arkadelphia and Krissen (Cody Russell) Piggee of Arkadelphia and a handsome great-grandson, Jase A. Russell. He also leaves one brother, Rev. Douglas P. Newburn (Linda) Opelousas, LA;two sisters, Evelyn Harrison-Barton of Okolona and Maureen Owens of Arkadelphia; a sister-in-law, Brenda Newburn of Malvern; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins other relative, special friends, Alvin Flenory, and Robert Bobby Comeaux both of Hope, AR, other friends and the Greater St. Luke Baptist Church family.