The Late Most Reverend Presiding Bishop James Oglethorpe Patterson Sr. (born July 12, 1912-died December 29,1989) was Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ for over two decades from 1968 until his death in 1989. He was the father of the now deceased COGIC bishop and Chairman of its General Assembly, The Right Reverend J.O. Patterson, Jr.(1935-2011) and was the first elected Presiding Bishop. He was also the uncle of the Late Presiding Bishop His Grace, The Most Reverend Gilbert E. Patterson.
Bishop Patterson was born in Mississippi in 1912. He and his family joined the Church of God in Christ then under Bishop C.H. Mason when he was a young teen. In the 1930's, as he grew older, his favor with the leaders of the COGIC increased, and according to them, his favor with God also increased. He also married Mother Deborah Indiana Mason-Patterson in 1935 and had 2 children James O. Patterson, Jr. And Janet Laverne Patterson. In 1939, he opened J.O. Patterson Funeral Home (ln 1986, changed to J.O. Patterson Mortuary). He was ordained a minister in the COGIC in the 1940s, under Bishop Mason. He was ordained a bishop in the COGIC in the 1950s. In 1961, when Bishop Mason died, Bishop O.T. Jones, Sr., who succeeded Bishop Mason as the Senior Bishop of the COGIC, organized an executive "General Board," and appointed Bishop J.O. Patterson,Sr. as the assistant leader of the Board. In 1968, after being the Senior Bishop for seven years, BIshop Jones resigned from the office of Senior Bishop due to controversy from the conflict over his tenure as the Senior Bishop. Bishop J.O. Patterson immediately stepped in and became the interim senior bishop. The General Board met in 1968 and organized a General Assembly of all the bishops of the COGIC. The General Assembly voted to create a new office to replace the office of senior bishop. They called this new and ultimately more "powerful" office, "The Office of the Presiding Bishop of the Churches of God in Christ, Incorporated." The General Assembly, and the millions of members of the COGIC then voted that Bishop Patterson should take the office of Presiding Bishop. After being elected as the first "Presiding Bishop" of the COGIC denomination, he immediately began starting COGIC Christian missions to bring the COGIC to countries outside of the U.S. During his tenure as Presiding Bishop, Bishop Patterson had built and organized COGIC churches in over 44 foreign countries and organized many jurisdictions in those foreign countries. Under his leadership, he appointed over 100 Bishops to lead the COGIC along with him and the General Board of the church. He also founded the COGIC International C.H. Mason Memorial Choir, to serve as the official mass choir of the denomination. He appointed Dr. Mattie Moss Clark as the head director of the choir and as the head president of the church's music department. In the 1970s and 1980s he appointed Bishops Otha Miema Kelly, F D Wasington, Louis H. Ford and Chandler D. Owens as his Assistant Presiding Bishops (Ford and Owens later became Presiding Bishops in succession) - they served in their respective positions at different periods.
Bishop Patterson was diagnosed in April of 1988 with pancreatic cancer. As his health declined and as his condition got worse in 1989, Bishop Patterson retired from the Office of Presiding Bishop and Bishop L.H. Ford became the acting Presiding Bishop with Bishop Patterson remaining as the honoured elected Presiding Bishop until his death. He finally died on December 29, 1989 at the William F. Bowld Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. His funeral was held at the Mason Temple COGIC in Memphis, Tennessee in January of 1990. Nearly 10,000 people attended the funeral. The hymn of comfort that was sang at the funeral was "Oh I Want to See Him and Look Upon His Face." Many famous Gospel singers sang songs of tribute to Bishop Patterson and songs of comfort to the Patterson family. Among the many famous Gospel singers that sung at the funeral were Karen Clark Sheard, Elbernita Clark-Terrell, Mattie Moss Clark and Vanessa Bell Armstrong. Many famous leaders and activists attended the funeral as well. Among the many notable people who attended the funeral were Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Bishop David L. Ellis, and the President of the National Baptist Convention of America, Reverend T. J. Jemison, the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, and the Senator of Tennessee, Senator James Sasser. The funeral was also attended by a Catholic Cardinal-Bishop who was sent by the Catholic leaders in Vatican City to represent Pope John Paul II. The eulogy was delivered by his successor The Late Most Reverend Louis Henry Ford (who was elevated to the Office of Presiding Bishop by the General Assembly in early 1990), who, in his eulogy, urged the people of the COGIC to return to "basic holiness in God." Bishop J.O. Patterson, Sr. was buried at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Shelby County, Tennessee.