James Huckins, Baptist church organizer, pastor, and educator, was born in Dorchester, New Hampshire, on April 8, 1807. He was orphaned at the age of six and adopted by a farmer. He became a Baptist at the age of fourteen. After attending Brown University and completing theological courses at Andover, Massachusetts, he was sent by the American Baptist Home Missionary Society to Texas in 1840 to report on conditions. On the trip he organized one of the first Baptist churches in Texas with nine charter members, on February 3, 1840, in Galveston. He also helped to organize the Union Association in 1840 and the Texas Baptist Home Mission Society and Texas Baptist Educational Society in 1841. In January 1841 he returned to Galveston to preach and in May established the First Baptist Church in Houston. He also served as editor of the Texas column in the Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer. Because of the slavery issue and the fact that he owned slaves, Huckins resigned from the Home Missionary Society in 1845 and joined the Domestic Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He and his wife, the former Rhoda Carver Barton, whom he married on September 18, 1832, taught school in Galveston before he began a nationwide tour for the Southern Baptist board to secure funds for Baylor University, founded in 1845. He was an agent for Baylor for five years and a charter trustee. Huckins also served as three-term president of the Texas Baptist Convention. He returned to Galveston in 1853, served the Baptist church there until 1859, and then transferred to the Wentworth Street Baptist Church, Charleston, South Carolina. In 1854 he helped to establish the Howard associations and served as chairman in the effort to collect and disperse funds in the Galveston yellow fever epidemic. He died on August 6, 1863, while ministering to the wounded at Charleston during the Civil War.