It seems just like yesterday that I was assisting historian/author James R. Goff, author of “Close Harmony: a History of Southern Gospel,” and retired Singing News Magazine editor Jerry Kirksey in their search for artifacts and film reflecting the earliest years of Southern gospel music.
While performing music is a focus of mine, I have always cherished the history and the lessons shared with me by those who traveled before. As a result, I have assisted numerous museums in adding to their archives artifacts that reflect the vibrant colors of the accomplishments of our musical artists.
I was honored to help add to the collection of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame & Museum. It is amazing to me that the culmination of our endeavors is marking its 15th anniversary this April at Dollywood.
“The museum currently houses more than 3,000 artifacts and honors 155 members of the Southern Gospel music community,” said Southern Gospel Music Association President Arthur Rice. “The museum continues to grow.”
The Southern Gospel Music Association is a non-profit organization that maintains the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame, for the historic preservation of the accomplishments of the music and its people.
Since April 17, 1999, the museum just inside the gates of Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. has provided a wonderful opportunity for the park’s average 30,000 visitors per month to learn more about Southern gospel music.
Gospel legends Dr. Jerry Goff, James Blackwood, Eva Mae LeFevre, Eldridge Fox, Les Beasley, J.G. Whitfield and Bill Gaither cut the ribbon 15 years ago to open the only facility of its type solely dedicated to honoring a specific genre of Christian music.
“That was the day that the dreams, hard work and prayers of hundreds of people came together,” said Danny Jones, SGMA executive director. “Cherished memories are kept alive through the work of the SGMA staff. While the Hall of Fame does bring back some great memories, the museum is also a vital part of building the future of our music as we honor the legacy of artists and promote today’s music through an expanding marketplace and a new generation of music lovers.”
Museum hours match those of Dollywood and admission is included with park ticket.
“We’re honored that Dollywood continues to recognize the significance and importance of Southern Gospel music, and as both the SGMA and Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame & Museum we are grateful for their support and willingness to showcase this great music,” Rice said.
You know better than any if the artists of Southern gospel music have touched your lives or that of a loved one – visit www.sgma.org to look through the list of inductees and read their stories.
If you are inclined help buy a special bronze plaques displayed in the Hall of Fame for an inductee who has not yet received theirs. You might just want to become a member of the SGMA and support the organization. Donations are tax-deductible and individuals or businesses may also donate.
If music has blessed your life, I encourage you to find the museum that honors the legends that you admire and help them with their goals by volunteering, donating or becoming a member.