One of my favorite events of the year is the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame induction honoring those who have shared their lives with us on the road singing His message.
Among this year’s 2010 SGMA class of Hall of Fame inductees are Danny Gaither, Little Jan Buckner-Goff, and Sam Goodman, Bill Hefner, Connie Hopper and Arthur Smith.
This year’s event was combined with the Singing News Fan Awards and coincided with Dollywood’s 25th Anniversary. The combination provided a wonderful event honoring these legends and their families.
The late singer Danny Gaither’s (1938-2001) induction was accepted by his brother Bill Gaither, sister-in-law Gloria Gaither, and sister Mary Ann. During his career, Danny sang with all three performers as part of the Bill Gaither Trio. He also enjoyed a successful solo career. He garnered numerous awards.
For me one of the most moving appearances of the evening was the induction of my long-time friend Little Jan Buckner-Goff. Any one that ever heard Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters knew the sound, talent, energy and pure joy that Little Jan brought to their music. She also shares those in her solo career and the combined work she does with her husband Dr. Jerry Goff. I was glad to see this induction!
The late Sam Goodman (1931-1991), of the Happy Goodman Family, was the spokesperson for that group through many of its decades of performing. He performed for presidents and received numerous awards. A couple of his most requested recitations were “The Pledge of Allegiance” and “Beauty of a Child.” His sonsaccepted his induction.
The late U.S. Representative Bill Hefner (1930-2009) performed with the Crusaders Quartet and then the Harvesters Quartet. His song “He’ll Pilot Me” became a favorite. He was a mainstay at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion as its emcee. He served in Congress from 1974 until 1999. His daughter Stayce Hefner accepted his induction.
Singer, author and songwriter Connie Hopper of The Hoppers gave an encouraging and amusing acceptance speech reflecting on her decades with her family on the road. She has won numerous awards and continues to be a fan favorite. She has always been one of my favorite singers and people.
Guitar boogie Arthur Smith, who came into my home and millions of others each week via TV through “The Arthur Smith Show,” was the final inductee. You might wonder why the composer of “Dueling Banjos” might be inducted in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame. The network radio and then TV star based from Charlotte, N.C. created an intimate atmosphere for his audiences sharing country and gospel music from coast to coast with many of the biggest gospel and country stars recording his original songs. He was one of my favorites and I think his induction is outstanding. His son Clay accepted his induction.
Country Music Hall of Famer Dolly Parton received the James D. Vaughn Impact Award at the event.
Parton accepted the award saying: “God bless you. I am so honored and so proud to accept this wonderful award. This is a great honor because I know this is a wonderful award to be given in the gospel community. It means a great deal to me and I will treasure it and we will hang it here in our museum.”
She thanked the audience for being supportive of her and Dollywood, invited the Kingdom Heirs to join her on stage where she shared these thoughts as she introduced her song “I Am a Seeker.”
“Most of us, we try to do good but we don’t always do it,” Parton said. “We know we are just sinners but we know that God loves us and is willing to forgive us.
“I remember this was 35 or 40 years ago in my kitchen in the first house my husband and I ever owned. I was trying my best to get my career going and my life going,” she said. “Trying to keep God in everything. You go through so many things, you say ‘Lord, I don’t feel like I am a good Christian. I feel like I am falling by the wayside trying to get so many things going. So I started writing this song. We know that we are nothing but with God we can be everything. We are holding on to Him.”
The Southern Gospel Music Association is a non-profit organization that maintains the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame, the only facility honoring this genre of music, for the historic preservation of the accomplishments of the music and its people. Museum hours match those of Dollywood. Donations are tax-deductible. Individuals and businesses may donate to assist with honoring inductees with special bronze plaques that are displayed in the Hall of Fame. For more information about the museum or its inductees, visit www.sgma.org.