Billy Graham Center

Interview with James Halloway Neece - Collection 380

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of James Halloway Neece

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

Brief Description.

Oral history interviews in which Neece describes his conversion and Christian education, discusses the work of a jail chaplain and the spiritual needs of prisoners, and comments on the work of the Good News Mission.

Collection 380 [May 8, 2000]
Neece, James Holloway, 1941-
Interviews; 1987

Audio tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


James Neece was born on May 5, 1941. He had one sibling, a half sister. In 1954, his mother died. At the age of fifteen he went to attend Culver Military Academy in Indiana, from which he graduated in 1960. He then went to Claremont College in California. His father died in 1962, his sophomore year. After attending various colleges and universities, he graduated from Claremont in 1972 with a degree in business economics. In 1965 he married and in 1967 became the father of a baby girl. He and his wife divorced in 1969. He held a wide variety of jobs during his college years and after: car salesman, draftsman, real estate appraiser, bond salesman and trader.

In 1979 he had a sudden, dramatic conversion to Christianity. He joined a local Christian and Missionary Alliance church and was soon elected a deacon. In 1980 he went to Alaska to help with some CMA construction work there and also assisted a pastor there working with loggers. In 1982 he went to Mali the Ivory Coast and Gabon as a short term missionary. Feeling that he needed a deeper grounding in the Bible, he enrolled in Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. He began to do visitation at the Rocky Butte County Jail while he was attending Multnomah.

After graduating, he enrolled at Wheaton Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois for further training. He also began to assist, on a volunteer basis, the chaplain at the nearby Dupage County Jail. Eventually the chaplain, Charles Haley (who was a staff member of Good News Mission) made Neece his assistant. When Haley resigned, Neece did as well. He came back shortly after, at the urging of the mission, to become chaplain.

He continued as chaplain until early 1987. (He graduated from the graduate school in 1986 with an MA in theology). His duties included administrative work, arranging for worship and evangelistic services, counseling, maintaining liaison with local churches, recruiting and training volunteers and fund raising. He resigned in 1987 largely because of the pressures of administrative work and fund raising. However, the new chaplain did not work out and Neece came back in August as interim chaplain. As of September 1987 he was planning to leave that position shortly and, with his new bride (Virginia Pearle Green, whom he had married in February), manage a retreat center for Christian workers.

Scope and Content

James Neece was interviewed by Paul Ericksen on September 9 and 16, 1987 at the Billy Graham Center. The time period covered by the interviews was 1979 to 1987. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded in the left hand column below, topics discussed in the right hand column. The index is keyed to the cassette copy and not the reel-to-reel original.

Tape T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape.
00:15 Introduction to 9/9/1987 interview.
00:30 Birth; description of family; religious environment in the home; skipping out on church; influence of science fiction; first contact with the Bible; guilt; acceptance of Christ as saviour in 1979.
05:30 Beginning attendance at a Christian and Missionary Alliance church; the need to public proclaim his conversion; radical change in his life; backsliding; dealing with stress; influence of his conversion on his jail ministry.
08:30 Attendance at Multnomah School of the Bible; learning about the Bible and different interpretations; attendance at Wheaton College; differences between the schools.
10:00 Career before becoming a Christian as a stockbroker, appraiser, businessperson; working as a deacon at the CMA church; first exposure to jail ministry; need to be in fulltime Christian work and to get further training; felt barred from pastorate because of his divorce.
14:45 Comparison of the spiritual environment at Multnomah and the Wheaton Grad School; integration of undergrads and grads at Multnomah; requirements at Multnomah.
17:00 Need to be involved in a Christian service at Multnomah; influence of Matthew 25 on his entering jail ministry; early experiences at the county jail; the need for honesty in jail ministry.
22:45 Similarities between people in jail and out; witnesses to a man strapped down in a cell for murder.
28:30 Initial fear of Christian service and desire to get out of it; macho appeal of jail ministry; surprise at the few people involved in jail ministry at Wheaton College; people would rather be a missionary to Africa than a missionary to prisoners.
35:00 Influence of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship in making Christians aware of jail ministry; the volunteer program at Multnomah; strong need to be doing the Gospel while at Wheaton; meeting with Chuck Haley, the chaplain of DuPage County Jail for Good News Mission; appointment as assistant chaplain, then chaplain; requirements for a chaplain; need for more aggressive fundraising.
42:30 Duties as assistant chaplain.
42:45 End of side 1.

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Start of tape; Repeat of portion from side 1.
00:45 Work as assistant chaplain; distributing books to prisoners; building a rapport with prisoners; emphasis on evangelism; different strengths of different chaplains; duties of a chaplain; Christian activities at Dupage County Jail; ministry to the volunteers and the churches; benefits for church members from jail ministry.
09:45 Changes required by the opening of a new jail facility; other programs at the jail; need for discipline and exactness in a jail situation; changes in the volunteer program during Neece's chaplaincy; conflicts with other volunteers; removal of some volunteers; reaching the inmates as the prime purpose of the work.
15:45 End of tape.

Tape T2 - side 1
00:00 Start of tape.
00:15 Changes in the volunteer program over the years; increased impact of the program in the jail; benefits to the community; some effective preachers in jail; "God wanted him out of prison."
06:45 Some inmates very fervent after conversion, but cannot maintain it; some of the discouragements of jail work; trying to understand how God works with people.
10:30 Story of a man suffering because he swore on the Bible and lied; being careful not to exploit an inmate's weakness; learning how to listen; judging a man's sincerity; Confessing his lie to the judge.
17:30 Why inmates embrace Christianity; the culture shock of coming to jail; why some former inmates go back to their old ways, such as alcoholism; conflicts between naive Christians and jail officers; the need for a wait and see attitudes toward conversions; the confidentiality of counseling.
22:15 A typical day for Neece as a chaplain; time spent on the phone with volunteers and others; counseling difficulties.
27:00 The presence of Christians in jail helps decrease the hostility factor; a typical prisoner's day; the facilities at the DuPage County Jail; comparison of Dupage with other jails; the importance of television in jail; other daily activities; balancing programs versus security; need for privacy; furnishings of a typical cell.
35:15 End of tape.

Tape T3 - side 1
00:00 Start of tape.
01:00 Introduction to 9/16/1987 interview.
01:30 Discussion of past interview.
02:00 Procedure of an inmate being admitted into the jail; courts' relation to the facility; types of cells and their condition; solitary confinement.
07:15 Length of time in solitary confinement; no abuse of inmates by officers; rumors of abuse; very few fights at county jail; high esteem for officers at Dupage jail; access to prisoners in solitary confinement.
10:30 Jail trusties; changes currently going on in the location of various types of prisoners in the jail; current capacity of jail; seasons for crime; typical length of stay in jail.
16:45 Ways of beginning a contact with an inmate; effective books for prisoners: Twice Pardoned or book by Chaplain Ray Hoekstra; provoking a response from prisoners.
21:30 Description of church services; mixed feelings about evangelistic services; bringing inmates to church; services for women.
27:15 Relationships with inmates; need for emotional distance; effects on Neece of working in the jail.
32:15 Attitudes of the inmates toward Neece; attitudes toward volunteers.
36:30 Gym facilities at the jail; effect on the men of being under the sky.
38:00 Jail culture; searches for illegal possessions; lack of knowledge about much of the prisoners' life; unpopularity of snitches, child molesters, rapists; differences between prison and jail.
43:45 End of side 1.

Tape T3 - side 2
00:00 Start of tape; repeat of portion from side 1.
01:00 DuPage jail compared with Cook County jail; gangs in jail; comparison of DuPage jail with Rocky Butte jail in Seattle, Washington; racial divisions at Rocky Butte.
07:00 Homosexuality very limited at the jail because of physical segregation.
08:00 The place of the chaplain in the hierarchy of the jail; influence of individual sheriffs and seniority; relations of chaplains and volunteers with officers; handling abuse from officers.
15:15 Frustrations of the officers with chaplains and volunteers; difficulties of judging a prisoner's sincerity; recidivism; why some people cannot function in society; recidivism in jail and in prison.
23:00 End of tape.

Tape T4 - side 1
00:00 Start of tape.
00:15 Purpose of the interview.
01:00 Reasons for resignation as chaplain in early 1987; annual Good News Mission banquet; troubles of the new chaplain; Neece's return as interim chaplain; involvement of other religious/social organizations in the jail.
08:45 Need for working with inmate converts after they leave jail to help them develop in their Christian life; problems of halfway houses; Prison Fellowship's method of aftercare; the M-2 program in California.
15:15 Size and work of Good News Mission; sources of funding; influence of Chuck Colson on the acceptability of jail and prison ministry; the part of local churches in jail ministry.
22:15 The new head chaplain at the DuPage jail.
23:15 Relations with Good News Mission; increased community and financial support in DuPage jurisdiction; financial problems of the mission; perceived slowness of Christian organizations in making decisions.
31:45 The best part of being a chaplain; burden for prisoners; changes in the way services are handled at the jail.
37:30 Frustrations of being a chaplain; attitudes of higher and lower officers to the chaplains; would do very little differently if had to do over.
41:15 The disease of AIDS in the jail.
43:45 End of side 1.

Tape T4 - side 2
00:00 Start of tape; repeat of portion from side 1.
01:00 Contacts with prisoners with AIDS; attitudes of jail officials toward the disease.
03:45 Advice for people going into jail ministry; Neece's current ministry: a retreat center for Christian workers.
05:30 End of tape.


The materials in this collection were received by the Archives in September 1987.

Accession 87-110, 87-113
June 6, 1987
Robert Shuster
J. Nasgowitz
M. Wohlschlegel

Revised June 16, 1993
P. Ericksen
M. Larson

Accession 87-110,87-113
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 57 minutes. Interview with James Neece by Paul Ericksen. Discussion of Neece's conversion and introduction to jail ministry; September 9, 1987. One side.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 35 minutes. Continuation of T1. Discussion of Neece's work as chaplain at the Dupage County Jail; September 9, 1987. One side.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 66 minutes. Interview with James Neece by Paul Ericksen. Discussion of the DuPage County Jail; September 16, 1987. One side

T4 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 49 minutes. Continuation of T3. Discussion of the work of Good News Mission; September 9, 1987. One side.

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Last Revised: 9/09/02
Expiration: indefinite