- Last Updated on 12:35 AM 11/06/09
- BY Staff
Banister Senior Services, Inc. will sponsor its Fourth Annual Banquet tomorrow at the New Arbor Baptist Church fellowship hall located at 14131 River Road, South Boston.
Dr. James H. Priest will be the guest speaker for this event.
A resident of Vernon Hill, Dr. Priest and his wife of 38-years, Mary Eleanor, are the parents of three sons, Berkley, Regan and Michael. They have two grandsons.
A well-known dentist, Priest has practiced in Halifax County for 30 years.
He is a dedicated and active member of his church, and his hobbies include baseball and hunting.
Sports have been a lifelong passion for Priest who was inducted into the Halifax County-South Boston Sports Hall of Fame last year.
Priest played baseball, basketball and football as a youngster, baseball under the tutelage of Charlie Moorefield, and football and basketball under Addison Marable, both members of the Hall of Fame.
Priest has served as head coach for Babe Ruth, Pee Wee, Dixie Youth, and Dixie Boys baseball teams, and was head coach of two Virginia State Champion All-Star teams, the 1996 Dixie Boys 13-Year-Old all-stars and the 1997 Dixie Boys 14-Year-Old all-stars.
He was an assistant coach for the Post 8 American Legion baseball team from 1997-2001, and the Halifax County High School Baseball Booster Club president from 1999-2001.
The scope of Priest’s involvement extends from the ball diamond to his church and community.
A practicing oral surgeon, Priest has provided free medical exams for Halifax County High School athletes and area Boy Scout troops since 1985, and has served as a volunteer surgeon for Mission of Mercy free dental care program.
Priest is a lay leader and Sunday school teacher at Asbury United Methodist Church, and has served as Cub Scout Master, and member of the YMCA Board of Directors.
He volunteers his time as a speaker at area civic clubs, nursing homes and churches, but still has found time for other activities including sports.
His involvement in sports and community service was briefly sidetracked by a potential life-threatening illness, but Priest conquered that illness and still approaches life with the zest of a teenager.
A biology major at Virginia Tech (ranking 35 out of a class of 2,182), he attended the Medical College of Virginia School of Dentistry, ranking second in a class of 110.
Everything began at home in Scottsburg, where Priest grew up.
“My parents, Bob and Christine, were Christian people and brought me up in a Christian home,” he recalled.
“They always taught me never to give up, and it was a combination of that and what the Good Book tells us about dealing with adversity and turning it into something positive.
“Their influence is what has shaped my entire life, and it became even more evident when I was out sick for two and a half years (1998-2001) with Guillaume-Barrre Syndrome.”
Priest said that he prayed for two things while he was fighting that disease of the central nervous system, one that he would be able to walk again.
“The second wish, which some thought was crazy, was that I would be able to throw batting practice,” he added with a smile.
“God didn’t allow me to throw from the mound, but he did allow me to have use of my right arm again, to sit behind a screen halfway to home plate and throw.”
Through it all, Priest’s faith and perseverance have prevailed.
“Bad things happen to a lot of people, but God doesn’t put these things on us as punishment or necessarily as a test,” explained Priest.
“He tells us that when bad things happen, we have to turn them into something good. For two and a half years I was out of work, and I’ve seen some of my patients go through some things just as bad and let it destroy them.
“But, others have gone through worse than I did, but their positive attitude saw them through.
“I’ve always told my sons that when they had their down times, what makes the difference between a good and exceptional person is that a good person will deal with things as best they can,” continued Priest.
“An exceptional person will take an adverse event and make it positive in some way, and that’s the person who will succeed in life and in sports.
“I’ve told that to all the boys who’ve played for me all these years.”
Perseverance and a good work ethic can make an average athlete better, and a more talented player even stronger, but it all comes down to a positive mental attitude, noted Priest.
That is even more important than raw physical ability, he added.
“There are a lot of players who were not necessarily stars, but because of their desire and work ethic have made themselves into very good ball players,” said Priest.
“But I have seen excellent athletes who have not applied themselves and not progressed, and a lot of it is mental, accepting defeat, picking yourself up and keeping going.”
Priest said his greatest accomplishments have not come as an athlete, coach or surgeon, but rather as a father and family person.
“The best day of my life was when I married my wife, Mary Eleanor, and the greatest accomplishments from our marriage have been our three boys, Berkley, Regan and Michael, my daughter-in-law, Kim Wilmouth Priest, and our grandson, Noah Jackson.
“They mean more to me than anything else.”