John Pershing Miles
John Pershing Miles I, a United Methodist pastor, died November 2, 2017 surrounded by family. John was born to Esther (Martin) and J.B. Miles on November 11, 1929 in Crowley, Louisiana. With his brother, Warren, he was raised in Crowley, Baton Rouge, Beaumont, Los Angeles, and Hot Springs. As a young man at Hot Springs Methodist, John accepted a call to ordained ministry and, seventy years ago this fall, was licensed to preach. While at Hot Springs High he won the Arkansas Golden Gloves Featherweight Boxing championship. At Hendrix College, he was an All AIC nose guard at 135 pounds. While taking his last college courses (repeating in the summer a few classes he had failed in the winter), John went to an event at Conway First Methodist and met JoAnn Ridgway, a student at State Teacher’s College; they married in June 1952 at First Methodist in Forrest City. After honeymooning at the Methodist annual conference in Hot Springs, they moved to Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, where they welcomed the first of their three children.
John was a faithful, buoyant, and effective pastor in the churches to which he was appointed – the Hamilton Circuit, Wilmot, Eudora, Star City, Fairview, Oaklawn, Arkadelphia First, St. James in Little Rock, and, finally, Hot Springs First, as an emeritus pastor. He received honorary doctorates from Shorter College and Hendrix College and served on many boards including those at Hendrix and Perkins. A gifted and outlandish raconteur, John won national and state awards for preaching, evangelism, and church growth. He was a yellow dog democrat and a passionate advocate for people and issues on the margins. A loving pastor to senators and presidents, the felons and the faithful, and everything in between, he was known to be encouraging to sinners and exasperating to saints. To all, he preached a message of graceful and loving acceptance, faithfulness to God and one’s covenants, and dogged self-discipline.
Preceded in death by his wife JoAnn and his brother Warren, John is survived by his children Deborah Miles and Marc Rudow, John and Susan Miles, and Rebekah Miles and Len Delony; his beloved grandchildren David, Caleb, Joshua, and Galit Rudow; Trey and Kelsea Miles; Zoe and Brandon Loeser, and Anna and Katherine Delony; his lady friend Corrine Gooch; his brothers and sisters, Peggy and James Lann, Joy Miles, and Melvin and Kay Ridgway; his nieces and nephews Heather, Martin, and Michael Miles, Jeffrey and Michael Pratt, Bonnie James, Mel Brooks, Suzanne Childs, Cindy Reister, Debbie McDade, Andy Lann, and Audrey Duckworth; and a wider community of extended family and friends.
We will celebrate John’s life at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 11th at Hot Springs First United Methodist. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to a charity of your choice or to Hot Springs First United Methodist Church (1100 Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901).