Editors note: with each new collection of posts we will be featuring articles from past issues of the National Sacred Harp Newsletter—a feature we are calling “Read the Old Paths.” (Thanks to Lauren Bock for the clever title for this series!) The article below was originally printed on pages 4–5 of Vol. 1, No. 2 (July 1985) of the Newsletter. It has been edited to correct typos, and a pair of photographs have been added, but otherwise I have left just as it appeared.
On Saturday, October 27, 1984 at 10:00 a.m., a group of approximate1y 150 gathered at Hamilton, Georgia on the town square to pay tribute to Benjamin Franklin White, author of The Sacred Harp, 1844. A historic marker was placed in the city park in his honor.
Hugh McGraw, Master of Ceremonies, welcomed the group and, opened the dedication by singing “Holy Manna,” p. 59. After singing the first verse, the group was asked to stand and sing the fifth verse. Scripture and prayer was then led from Psalm 100 by Rev. Mabry Collins, Pastor of Hamilton Baptist Church. Hugh McGraw then led “Webster,” p. 31b; “Look Out” by B. F. White, 1842, p. 90; “Lenox,” p. 40; and “Mear,” p. 49b.
The descendants of B. F. White were then recognized. Some descendants were hearing Sacred Harp music tor the first time.
William Steis, from the City of Hamilton, then welcomed everyone on behalf of the city. The mayor was unable to attend the ceremony due to other obligations. While the speaker system was being repaired, “New Britain,” p. 45t was conducted by Hugh McGraw. The first, second, fourth, and fifth verses were sung. Hugh then recognized Joe Mahan, Jr., Historic Preservation planner for the lower Chattahoochee Planning Commission for his efforts in establishing the marker.
Katie H. Mahan, Ph.D. Musicologist, Columbus College, Columbus, Georgia, then spoke on B. F. White—“One Man Can Make a Difference.”
Hugh McGraw then welcomed Douglas C. Purcell, Executive Director of the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, Eufaula, Alabama.
Singing resumed with Hugh McGraw directing “Burk” by B. F. White, 1843, p. 92; “Idumea,” p. 47b; “The Lone Pilgrim” composed by B. F. White while at the grave of a friend, 1850, p. 341; and “Beach Spring,” p. 81t. Hugh then spoke on “Why Sacred Harp singing will never die.”
Dr. William J. Reynolds, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Church Music, Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, was then introduced. Dr. Reynolds gave a very interesting and inspiring speech on the life and times of B. F. White
Joseph B. Mahan then gave a short talk.
The preparation for the unveiling of the marker vas then made. Hugh introduced B. F. White’s great-great grandson, Donald S. Clarke, who unveiled the marker. The decscendants of B. F. White gathered around the marker for pictures.
Hugh McGraw then led “The Morning Trumpet,” 1847, p. 85, “Send a Blessing,” 1859, p. 369, “Help Me to Sing,” 1859, p. 376 and “The Hill of Zion,” p. 565b, all by B. F. White.
Hugh then asked the group to rise and sing “Parting Hand,” p. 62—only the words were sung. During the song members of the group greeted their neighbor and took the traditional “parting hand.”
Hugh then thanked everyone so graciously for coming and making this historical day an event to be remembered.
(You may obtain a copy of Dr. William J. Reynolds’ speech on the life and times of B. F. White for $2.00.)
ON THE TOP OF THE NEXT PAGE IS THE HISTORICAL MARKER’S INSCRIPTION
B. F. WHITE
LIVED IN HAMILTON,
1843–c.1868, WAS MAYOR, 1865.
NEAR THIS SPOT IN 1844 HE PUBLISHED SACRED HARP,
A “fa-sol-la” ACCAPELLA SINGING BOOK NOW IN ITS 14TH EDITION.
WHITE TAUGHT IN A LOCAL ACADEMY, CONDUCTED
SINGING SCHOOLS IN MANY PLACES
AND ORGANIZED SINGING
OF WHICH STILL
HE DIED IN ATLANTA AND IS BURIED AT OAKLAND CEMETERY IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA.
Erected by Historic Chattahoochee Commission and Kindred and Friends of B. F. White.