On July 8, 1819, James M. Priest was born into slavery in Kentucky. Jane Anderson Meaux, who owned him as a slave, provided him with education before dispatching him to Liberia to investigate the opportunities available in that colony.
After returning to the United States, Priest continued schooling and was eventually called to serve as a Presbyterian missionary. In 1835, an application was submitted to Centre College, located in Danville, Kentucky. Because Priest was not eligible to enroll at the institution, he enrolled at McCormick Theological Seminary, situated in New Albany, Indiana. After completing his education at McCormick Theological Seminary in 1843 and returning to Liberia, James Priest established the institution’s first overseas missionary work. He spent the better four decades serving in various capacities with the American Colonization Society. He first did his duty at King Will’s Town and then moved on to Greenville.
Between 1864 and 1868, Mr. Priest held the position of vice president of Liberia. Subsequently, he was elevated to justice on the Supreme Court of Liberia. In July of 1883, he passed away while sitting as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Liberia at the time of his passing.