Rev. Dr. James Baxter – TV host/producer and pastor/educator

By Janice Malone

JACKSON, TN-‘Gospel on the Move’ is one of the most popular local television shows in the Jackson, TN area. The one-hour weekly program airs Sundays from 7 – 8 am, on NBC Channel 39 WNBJ, hosted and produced by Dr. James Baxter. The program features area and national guests who are household names in the genre of gospel and Christian music. Previous guests have included: Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs, Harvey Watkins and the Canton Spirituals, The Williams Brothers, The Mississippi Mass Choir, to name a few.

There’s a special edition spinoff show titled ‘Your World, Our World’ that also airs on the same channel each Sunday too. “Get ready for some hand-clapping, toe-tapping, good old-fashioned gospel music, when you watch Gospel on the Move,” Dr. Baxter tells the Tribune from his office in Jackson. “With the Your World, Our World special edition, we do stories with outstanding citizens of the local community who are making a difference.’ Gospel on the Move originally began airing in 1992 but the show went on hiatus after Dr. Baxter was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. The show resumed production in 2014, and today Dr. Baxter is now cancer free! He gives all the glory to Jesus Christ. “I thank our Lord and Savior daily,” he says proudly.

It seems that Dr. Baxter has spent most of his life making a difference in the community and in the lives of others. In addition to being a successful TV shows host/producer, he’s also an experienced educator and pastor of Mount Zion Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Henderson, Tennessee.

Before settling in Jackson, a very meager and humble life for James Baxter began in North Nashville, where he was originally born and raised. His mother worked as a maid in private homes, and also as a maid by night at the Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville. “My dad died when I was four years old. He was the victim of a black on black homicide crime,” recalls Mr. Baxter. “I saw this man die in our living room. Dad was an alcoholic, and he was a wife-beater. At the time, my uncle was staying in the house with us. One night my uncle told my father that if he hit his sister, my mother, again, that he would kill him. But my dad didn’t believe him. He did it though. And my uncle did exactly what he said he would do. Because of his crime, my uncle spent the rest of his life in Tennessee Prison for Men there in Nashville, where he died. So, my mom raised us kids up all by herself.  I’m the only one of my mother’s seven children to receive a high school diploma, My other siblings dropped out of school. I used to hear my mother around the back of the house, praying and singing out loud, as she was washing our clothes on the washboard. She would pray: ‘Lord, let at least one of my children get a high school diploma. Please Lord!’  So, I made up in my mind that one day I was going to get that high school diploma and make my mother proud.”

A young James Baxter gave his beloved mom a double portion to be proud of. Not only did he get his high school diploma, but he went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from Lane College and a Master’s degree from Tennessee State University, where he also earned his Doctorate degree in education administration and supervision. He later served in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged. Baxter has taught history and social studies in Jackson and Bolivar, TN. He’s taught U.S. history at Jackson State Community College and was a history teacher at his alma mater Tennessee State University, for many years. He also has served as principal at Milan Middle School (Milan, TN) as well as at Jefferson Elementary School in Fayette County.

Today, Dr. Baxter is the only surviving child of his parents, George W. Baxter and Venus White Baxter, and their seven children. The upcoming new year will be a busy one for Dr. Baxter. Plans are to release a new television special titled “Going Home with Dr. Baxter.’ The inspirational docu-special will trace his early life of growing up in North Nashville, all the way to his present-day success. He continues to be hands-on in the community in the area of education for children and youth, as he shares. “I’m a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, Beta Epsilon Chapter. We have a national initiative program known as ‘Go to High School, Go to College’. I’m the chairman of that committee, and this school year, we are mentoring black boys, or young black men at the Alexander Elementary School, grades four and five. We send facilitators to Alexander Elementary, where we teach various subjects such as:  building self-esteem, African American History, any number of other subject matters. We’re doing this because we’re concerned from a holistic point of view, about these kids as whole person.”

In the spring of next year, Dr. Baxter and his crew are excited to bring gospel greats Bishop Marvin Sapp and Grammy Award singer/actress Tamela Mann to Jackson, TN for some hallelujah, good old school gospel concerts, with other major-name gospel music concerts to follow throughout 2018.

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