gospel

A singer in evangelistic meetings.

“Who are the best-known African American voices in Adventist church music?

“Some may answer with selections from among today’s well-known songsters: Wintley Phipps, Charles Haugabrooks, the Aeolians. But there is also a good case to be made for names not so well known, their music sung by saints from week to week and year to year in a thousand congregations across the breadth of our world church: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Nothing Between My Soul and the Savior,” “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” “Give Me Jesus.” Isn’t it worth our while to remember who these individuals are? Their contributions to the spiritual growth and grounding of generations of Adventists and other Christians deserve more than the casual rendition of their songs. These composers and arrangers deserve our intelligent appreciation.

Charles Lee Brooks (1923-1989), born in Wilson, North Carolina, and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, began singing at age 4. Though keenly interested in classical music, Brooks is best remembered by Adventists as a singer in evangelistic meetings. As a personal memory, I was fortunate to serve as his teenaged accompanist during a memorable evangelistic series by E. E. Cleveland labeled the ‘Trinidad Triumph.’ Later, as an associate in the General Conference Secretariat, Brooks established the Office of Church Music and became its chair. He served as chair of the Church Hymnal Committee.”

— Excerpt from Nevilla E. Ottley-Adjahoe, “We Sing Their Songs: Significant Voices in African American Church Music,” Adventist Review, http://www.adventistreview.org

Four-part harmony.

The Gospel Four, circa 1940.

Like The Soul Stirrers, the Gospel Four were a quartet with five members. Founded in the Lucama area, the Gospel Four achieved local fame fed by their weekly radio show during the 1940s. Shown above, they were Jim Lawrence Jones, his brother Paul H. Jones, brothers Robert Powell and Russell Powell, and Eddie Finch, who was married to the Jones brothers’ sister Ida Mae.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 February 1947.

  • Jim Lawrence, Paul and Ida Mae Jones — Jim Lawrence Jones (1917-1976), Paul Henderson Jones, and Ida Mae Jones were children of Thomas and Mary Ida Bagley Jones.
  • Robert Powell — Robert (1908-1956) and David Russell Powell (1911-1990) were sons of David B. and Sarah Boykin Powell.
  • Eddie Finch — Nash County native Edward Finch (1909-1978), son of William and Mattie Finch, married Ida Mae Jones (1912-1986) in Johnston County, North Carolina, on 10 January 1931.

Photograph courtesy of Edith Jones Garnett. Thank you!