James P. Beasom Jr. came to Glendale’s First Lutheran church in 1937, and during his short time as minister the congregation grew from one of the smallest to one of the largest Lutheran churches in the state.
Beasom was born in Minnesota in 1899, but his family moved to Winnipeg, in the Canadian province of Manitoba, when he was very young.
The onset of World War I inspired him to support the cause, so even though he was under age, he joined the 79th Cameron Highlanders, a unit of Canadian soldiers headed for France in support of the British allies. He passed the exam since he appeared to be an adult in size and demeanor and he remained in the service “long enough to stand inspection before the Prince of Wales,” according to a Glendale News-Press story, May 18, 1940. When his age was finally discovered, he was released.
This adventurous young man returned to the United States in 1916, enrolled in a college with a student army training corps and, after graduation, entered Pacific Theological Seminary in Seattle. After his ordination in 1924, he did graduate work at several universities and served as pastor in a Seattle Lutheran church for five years.
In 1929, he headed in this direction and joined the faculty of Glendale Junior College as an instructor of public speaking and journalism, then went on to teach at Occidental College.
When he took the pulpit at First Lutheran in 1937, he immediately joined in the religious and civic affairs of the city, serving as president of the Glendale Ministerial Assn., the Glendale Kiwanis club and Beta Phi Gamma, a national journalism fraternity. For several years, Beasom also wrote a column for the News-Press.
Beasom and his family lived at 1650 Capistrano Ave., and his twin sons attended Glendale High. The 1940 article described him as “still just a young fellow in years and spirit.” In his college days, Beasom played football, and it was still his favorite sport. “As an ardent Bruin fan, he would very much like to see UCLA in the Rose Bowl,” he told the News-Press.
Beasom also enjoyed tennis and golf, and added that his hobby was collecting rare books and old manuscripts, including a rare copy of the Gutenberg Bible.
In 1945, Beasom left the pastorate to become the first full time president of the California Synod, assisting Lutheran churches throughout the state.
One church, St Peter’s by the Sea, in San Diego, credits Beasom with saving their church from closure. On their website, a church historian writes that when their pastor resigned in 1947, he announced that the church would be closed. This came as a surprise to many members. They contacted Beasom, who arranged for a Navy chaplain to preach for several Sundays. A few weeks later, Beasom went to San Diego, planning to close the church, but when he saw more than 100 children leaving Sunday school, he changed his mind and recruited a new pastor for them.
After World War II, Beasom participated in a campaign among members of the 600 Lutheran churches across the United States to raise $10 million for the people in war-torn countries.
To the Readers:
First Lutheran already had an illustrious history by the time James P. Beasom Jr. arrived in 1937. The church dates back to 1911, when a Sunday school was organized in a private residence. Soon, services were being held at a hall on West Broadway. The church was organized in July 1912, with 25 charter members.
They built a church at Harvard Street and Maryland Avenue and held their first service there on Easter Sunday, 1917.
The congregation drew up plans in the mid-1920s for a larger church to be built in the Spanish Mission style. Architects were Allen Ruoff and Arthur C. Munson, of Los Angeles. The accompanying photo shows this church, located at 233 S. Kenwood St. First Lutheran is now on Colorado Boulevard.