Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Preacher Going Strong At 104

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NICKELSVILLE - The example James F. Aker is setting is one almost everyone would like to follow - to live to be 104 and still be able to run up stairs.

For the past 80 years, Rev. Aker has been an evangelist, preaching in churches of almost every Protestant Faith in 38 states and two foreign countries. This week he's at Nickelsville United Methodist Church.

His voice today is as strong as it was when he was 30, and his footsteps don't falter as he walks I through a typical "busy day" schedule, which might include addressing an assembly of local high school students, having lunch with a group of church leaders, and holding services later in the evening.

Wearing glasses is his one concession to aging. His hair was snow-white during. his 90s, now has started· turning black at. the. temples. His original teeth are still sound and white.

He attributes his longevity to the service he's performing to the God he serves. "I started preaching in 1891, but it wasn't full time," he said. In 1895 he held his first revival on April 12, and fully intended to make it his life's career. He was married in 1904 for the first time, and shortly afterward, decided he would leave the ministry in favor of a job that would afford him more money to buy the things he wanted for his family.

"That was a mistake," he concedes today.

He developed inner ear problems, and was told by the doctors he probably wouldn't live. A mastoidectomy, almost unheard of in that day, was the only solution offered him, and he refused.

"My wife told me God was punishing me for leaving the ministry, after I had sold everything I owned except the mattress that we placed on the floor to sleep on," he said.

At that point his father insisted· that he have the surgery, and he agreed. "My face was black and swollen, and I had to do something. I promised God if He pulled me through and let me look after my family, I'd preach anywhere I was ask me to go," he said.

For sometime, following successful surgery, he had to walk with crutches to keep from losing his balance, and his family hid the letters requesting him to come and preach.

"But I found one of them, and I determined to go. The first week I preached. I threw away one of the crutches, and the second week I threw away the other. I've never used a cane or a crutch since." .

A recent check-up at his doctor's office showed he has the heartbeat of a 30year-old and the blood of a 40-year-old man, he said.

"My doctor can't believe I can stay so well so long," he laughed. "He asked me where I came from."

 

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