James Nix retired in mid-September; Merlin Burt was voted in as new director.
Published on: 10-15-2020
On Sunday, October 11, 2020, during the morning session of Annual Council 2020, leaders from around the Seventh-day Adventist Church surprised former White Estate director James Nix by presenting him with a lifetime achievement award and personalized letter etched in glass, honoring his lengthy service to the Adventist Church and Ellen G. White Estate. Nix retired in mid-September.
Nix’s work began in 1972 when he was hired by Loma Linda University to develop a Heritage Room for the institution, featuring early Adventist history. Nix was perfect for this position because, along with holding a library science degree from Andrews University, he had always had an interest in collecting early manuscripts about the pioneers and interviewing people who knew Ellen White personally. The stories he collected from these interactions became valuable resources later for researchers and church publications. He soon became the director of the project, and two years later, he helped to open the Ellen White Research Center on campus.
In 1981, Nix facilitated the establishment of Adventist Historic Properties, Inc., now known as Adventist Heritage Ministry. As director, Nix procured several properties in the United States that hold historical significance to the Adventist movement, including Joseph Bates’s boyhood home in Fairhaven, Massachusetts; the William Miller and Hiram Edson farms in New York state; and the historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Nix moved to the main office of the Ellen G. White Estate in 1993, where he served as associate director for two years. He became vice-director in 1995 and director of the Estate in 2000. Under his leadership, 11 Ellen G. White research centers have been established around the world. These centers are designed to provide access to the complete works of Ellen White and a great number of resources about her ministry, her writings, her life, and the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Nix’s most recent contribution was the development of the Ellen G. White Visitor’s Center at the headquarters building of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
Tim Poirier, vice-director of the White Estate and long-time colleague of Nix, said, “No private individual has collected more Adventist memorabilia and historical artifacts than Elder Nix. He doesn’t collect them merely out of personal interest but as aids to tell the story of God’s leading and teaching in the Advent movement. That perspective — thinking about eternal ramifications — is the philosophy behind his leadership at Adventist Heritage Ministries, and, more recently, what to say and display in the Ellen G. White Visitor Center at the church’s world headquarters. I’m glad that that he will be continuing to serve as a Life Trustee of the Ellen G. White Estate in his retirement.”
Nix, a consummate storyteller, has authored and contributed to several books on Adventist pioneers, including Early Advent Singing, Laughter and Tears of the Pioneers (with Paul Gordon), and In the Footsteps of the Pioneers. Many have participated in hymn sing-a-longs led by Nix as he blended history and song, telling stories of the pioneers as he introduced each early Advent hymn.
Alberto Timm, an associate director of the White Estate, shares that “two of Jim’s basic characteristics are honesty and commitment. With a frugal lifestyle, he always sought to save as much of his travel budgets as possible for God’s cause. He spared no effort in favor of the mission entrusted to him. I had the privilege of traveling with him on many international trips around the world. I have been much impressed by the coherence between what he preaches and what he lives!”
When remotely presenting Nix with the lifetime achievement award and letter (Nix’s wife, Mindi, made the presentation at their home), Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, thanked Nix for his valuable contribution to the Adventist Church over the years. Wilson said, “Thank you for what you have done for God’s church in allowing the Holy Spirit to use you in a precious way — to bring the Spirit of Prophecy into the forefront as it points people to Christ and the Holy Word of God. We hope you will always be connected with the White Estate and Adventist Heritage Ministry, contributing invaluable counsel and guidance as we head towards Christ’s soon coming.”
Merlin Burt stepped into the role of director of the Ellen G. White Estate upon Nix’s retirement. Burt formerly served as director of the Center for Adventist Research and as professor of church history for the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Michigan.