Christian 03

Reverend Dr. Jiles Ellsworth Kirkland

February 10, 1928 ~ December 29, 2019 (age 91)


Waynesville, NC, The Reverend Dr. Jiles Ellsworth Kirkland, age 91, passed away on Sunday, December 29, 2019 at JF Keever Solace Center.

Born February 10, 1928, in Dover, Florida.  Graduated from Plant City High School in Florida in 1946, where he lettered two years in baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies attempted to draft him.  He started preaching when he was 16 years old and has served a church since he was 18 years old, having received his first assignment as a senior in high school when he became founding pastor of Trinity Methodist Church in Plant City, in 1946.

Received A.B. from Asbury College, Wilmore Kentucky in 1950, with a major in history.  Attended Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky for two years, then attended Garrett Evangelical Seminary, Evanston, Illinois, for two years and received the Master of Divinity in 1954.

Served churches for eight years during student years in Kentucky and Illinois.  Served Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Kentucky 1950-52; Oconee, Illinois Charge, 1952-54.

Married Dorothy Eloise Gates, high school and college sweetheart, in 1949.  There are three children; Ms. Marsha Kay Kirkland, Willis Nelon and Jiles Ellsworth, Jr.; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Admitted on Trial and ordained Deacon in the Florida Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in 1951.  Received into full connection and ordained Elder in 1954.

Upon graduation from Seminary in 1954, he was assigned to a vacant lot in a rapidly growing suburban area in Tampa, Florida where he organized the Manhattan Avenue Methodist Church.  During his ten-year ministry there over 1,800 members were received into the church; two educational buildings were built; and a Sanctuary completed in 1963.  The Sanctuary was selected by TOGETHER magazine, along with four other churches in the United States, and featured in the November 1964 issue for their symbolism and architectural distinctiveness.

He was appointed to the 1,800-member First United Methodist Church of South Miami, Florida in 1964.  A major Building Fund campaign resulted in the construction of an educational building in 1968.  Served one term as President of the Greater Miami Ministerial Association.

Appointed Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Bradenton, Florida, in June 1969, where he served until 1977.  A lovely new parsonage was built and extensive renovation and building improvements were accomplished on the Church, including an elevator.

In 1977, he was appointed Senior Pastor of the Riverside Park United Methodist Church, Jacksonville, Florida.  While there he led in two major building fund campaigns and began major renovations.  Also, a nine-story low-income housing complex for the elderly was constructed in 1982.

In 1983 he was appointed Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church, Winter Park, Florida.  The church celebrated its Centennial in 1985, and burned the mortgage on a $1,200,000 building program five years early.

Past offices held:  District Secretary of Evangelism; District Missionary Secretary; member conference Work Area on Worship; Chairperson, Conference Work Area on Stewardship; a member of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry; Chairperson of the Ministerial Education Fund of the Conference; Chairperson of Orlando District Committee on Ordained Ministry.

During his forty years in the parish ministry, fourteen men and one woman have answered the call to preach.

Honorary Degrees:  Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky (his Alma Mater) conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity, May 28, 1973.  On July 28, 1990, Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Florida conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

Dr. Kirkland’s primary avocation has been to host tours abroad, which he has been doing since 1966.  Over 500 people have traveled with him to Western Europe, the Iron Curtain countries, Middle East, Africa, Far East (including China), South Pacific, Hawaii, Alaska and Canada, as well as South and Central America.  This included all continents and some 70 countries.

His hobbies were photography, and massive amounts of reading.  He recently completed his 13th reading of the Bible.

In 1986, Dr. Kirkland was appointed District Superintendent of the Sarasota District of The United Methodist Church by Bishop Earl G. Hunt, Jr.

In May of 1992, he gave the Baccalaureate address at Asbury College and received the President’s Distinguished Service Award for his special contributions to the work of Asbury College.

On May 27, 1992, Dr. Kirkland retired from the active ministry after 40 years as a Pastor and six years as a District Superintendent. 

Since retiring from the ministry in 1992, Dr. Kirkland has resided in Waynesville, North Carolina, and called his mountaintop home, "Mt. Nebo."  His beloved wife, Eloise, resided with him until her death in September 2015.  Dr. Kirkland continued writing his annual Easter and Christmas letters which reached many souls over the years and warmed and inspired many hearts.

Dr. Kirkland is survived by a daughter, Marsha Kay Kirkland; two sons, W. Nelon Kirkland and Jiles E. Kirkland, Jr.; eight grandchildren, Kourtney Beall, Carlton Beall (Taryn), Brianne Russo (Giovanni), Bryant Kirkland, Cristin Rumler (Jeff), Connor Kirkland, Chloe Kirkland and Jiles Kirkland, III; four great-grandchildren, Josiah Liam Beall, Lydia Jayne Beall, Jacob Kirkland Russo and Zoey Mae Rumler.

Our love and appreciation to Dad’s caretakers and angels in his final years of life, Patty Cable, Annette King, Millie Wilson, Joyce Burns and Janalyn Suddath.

Funeral services will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 5, 2020 at Memorial Chapel at Lake Junaluska.  Burial will follow at Green Hill cemetery.  The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service.  A reception will follow the burial at Wells Events & Reception Center.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Kirkland-Kinlaw Scholarship Fund, c/o Asbury University, 1 Macklem Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390.

The care of The Reverend Dr. Jiles Kirkland has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Homes.

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January 5, 2020

12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Memorial Chapel at Lake Junaluska
91 Lakeshore Drive
Junaluska, NC 28745

Funeral Service
January 5, 2020

1:00 PM
Memorial Chapel at Lake Junaluska
91 Lakeshore Drive
Junaluska, NC 28745

Burial following the service
January 5, 2020

Green Hill Cemetery
161 Veterans Circle
Waynesville, NC 28786

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