James Edwin Bear, Jr. was born in 1893 in China to parents who were missionaries. While he was growing up, one of his classmates was the author Pearl S. Buck.
After his family returned to the United States, Bear enrolled and graduated in 1912 from Fredericksburg College with his Bachelor of Arts. He began a teaching career before starting at Washington and Lee University, where he earned his Master of Arts in 1915. While enrolled at W&L, he was a member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity and a leader on campus in social and religious affairs. He also served as the editor of the student magazine and was also a member of the Lexington Presbyterian Church. Omicron Delta Kappa recognized him with the Distinguished Service Key in 1974.
He spent the next several years teaching and eventually joined the U.S. Army where he served in France and England. Following World War I, he began studies at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He earned a Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology from Union. Eventually, he earned a Doctor of Divinity after completing advanced studies at Edinburgh, Basel, and Princeton. He also returned to China from 1923-30 to work in evangelical and educational ministries.
Bear returned to teach New Testament interpretation at Union, and in 1950, he became the F.S. Royster Professor of Christian Mission. He researched and wrote about the Presbyterian church’s mission work in China, Portugal, and Brazil. He was also the author of several books in his discipline, including Our Protestant Heritage, The King of God or World Revolution, Our Assumption and the Interpretation of the Bible, and A Literal Vrs. A Spiritual Interpretation of the Bible. In total, Bear wrote more than 31 publications.
He died in 1977. His grandson, James E. Bear, IV, a noted faculty member at the University of North Carolina, was initiated into the Davidson College Circle.
Nichols, Michael. (2014). The Laurel Crowned Circle: Omicron Delta Kappa and 100 Years of Leadership. Omicron Delta Kappa. Lexington, Va.