Minutes of the 1965 United Sacred Harp Musical Association

In the 1950s and 1960s a number of Georgia counties west and north of Atlanta published a book that brought together the minutes of singings held in these areas. This book, the Minutes of Carroll, Cobb, Coweta, Douglas, Fulton, Haralson, Heard, Paulding, and Polk Counties, Georgia, Sacred Harp Singings, also included the minutes of the United Sacred Harp Musical Association, at the time considered by many to be the central organization among all Sacred Harp singings.

As a companion to Irving Wolfe’s essay “Our Debt to George Pullen Jackson,” included in Vol. 3, No. 1 of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter, the Sacred Harp Publishing Company presents the complete minutes from the 1965 United Sacred Harp Musical Association. Wolfe read his essay during a special memorial program on Sunday morning during the convention.

You can read the minutes of the singing below, or download a scanned version of the minutes as they appeared in the 1965 Georgia book as a searchable PDF (2.2 MB).

Download the minutes of the 1965 United convention (2.2 MB PDF)

—Jesse P. Karlsberg

The United Sacred Harp Musical Association
Nashville, Tennessee
September 11–12, 1965

Cover of the 1965 Minutes of … Georgia Sacred Harp Singings.

The convention met at 10 A. M. Chairman Hoyt Cagle sang numbers 27, 32T and 56T. Prayer by Chaplin Carl Hughes. All officers of the convention present were then called to lead: Honorary Chairman A. M. Cagle 122-310; Secretary and Treasurer Lloyd Redding 67-77T; Chaplin Carl Hughes 204-379; Assistant Secretary and Treasurer Joyce Smith 369-205. The following leaders were then called: Leonard Morris 192-217; Preston Warren 70T-386; M. F. McWhorter 121; Ruth Denson Edwards 384; Ellis Brittain 171; Leman Brown 45T; Hugh McGraw 2B7; W. B. Matthews 534-524; Rev. Priestley Miller made a short talk. Recess.

Opened by Hoyt Cagle with 89. The Convention then went into a short business session. Officers were elected as follows: Chairman, Rev. Priestley Miller, Vice Chairman, Mrs. Ruth Denson Edwards, Secretary and Treasurer, Lloyd Redding, Assistant Secretary and Treasurer, Miss Joyce Smith, Chaplin, R. E. Denson.

Leaders were then called as follows: Dr. Reynolds 53-133; Mary Ruth Cannon 71-79; Dr. William Thompson 155-120; Brooks Jones 147T-143; Dr. W. B. Dobbs 274-290; Elsie McCuller 216-500. Recess.

Rev. Priestley Miller called the class to order and sang 61. Leaders as follows: Charles Ellington 145T; Margaret Wright 128-107; Leonard lacy 108B-176; Willie Mae Latham 49B-530; Joe Thomas 197-411; Linda Manning 280-327; Robert Aldridge 371-391; Russell Reiper 94. Dismissed for lunch.

Opened by Rev. Priestly Miller 137-222. Sheri Hackney 558-442; W. D. Bo1dy 532-553; Carlene Griffin 511-546; Jim Defoar 316-436; Mrs. James Hamilton 551-31; Kelley Beard 123T-218; Mrs. Ed Thomas 480; Calvin Davis 3458-453; Jim Ayers 329-350; Charlene Wallace 207-365; Ira V. Glenn 456-517. Recess.

Opened by Rev. Priestley Miller 208-478. M. L. Jenkins 74B-272; Mae Eze1 142-426; Mrs. Ora Lee Manning 471-4898; Dr. Irving Wolfe 85-209; Susie Southner 159-59; Donna Sailors 236; lvey Henry 441-434; Ellen Shelton 144. This brought the singing to an end for the afternoon. The singing met back at the Agricultural Building at 7:30 P. M. for a short lesson. Chairman Rev. Priestley Miller opened with 36B. Prayer offered by Dr. Reynolds. Chairman sang 348, followed by George M. Mattox 176B-312B; Palmer Godsey 142-313; Hugh McGraw 449-178; Ruth Denson Edwards 301; Claud Ward 87; Fay Thompson 128; Lloyd Redding 196; Batrices Ezell 499B-5728. Recess.

Opened by Chairman with number 73, followed by Tim Davis 480-59. Hoyt Cagle sang 98, and the night session was closed.


The class was called together by Chairman Rev. Priestley Miller who sang 48T. Prayer by Chaplin R. E. (Bob) Denson. The following leaders were then called: Hoyt Cagle 383; Janett Lathem 380-200; Lindburg Lacy 161270; Caroline Huckabe 174-198; Arlen Webb 419-302; Reba Dell Lacy 216-546; Jim Hamilton 85-58.

At this time a Memorial was read by Dr. Irving Wolfe for Dr. G. Pullen Jackson as follows:


My introduction to Sacred Harp singing was through George Pullen Jackson. Twenty-five years ago he took me to my first all-day singing at the courthouse in Huntsville. There I learned the joy of singing the old songs with the genuinely friendly singers so dedicated to the Sacred Harp. Dr. Jackson loved the people of the rural South because of their sturdy belief in religious freedom and their deep love for the fine old songs of Zion.

At many singings I heard Dr. Jackson talk informally with the class about the history of Sacred Harp singing and the meaning and significance of keeping the tradition alive. His brief talks always helped the members of the class to feel a little prouder of their fine old book and the singings which they loved so much. So it is fitting that we reflect today, while we are here in Nashville, on our debt to Dr. Jackson.

George Pullen Jackson was recognized as the foremost scholar of the origins, history and significance of spiritual song in America. Six books and many learned articles by Dr. Jackson on this subject attest to the thoroughness of his scholarship in this area of knowledge.

He was trained at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Dresden, Germany, took two degrees including his doctorate from the University of Chicago, did post graduate work there and at the universities of Munich and Bonn.

He was professor of German in several institutions including Oberlin College, Northwestern University, University of North Dakota, and Vanderbilt University here in Nashville from 1918 until his retirement in 1943. He was emeritus professor at Vanderbilt University until his death January 19, 1953.

Dr. Jackson was an active leader in community musical affairs. A few of his contributions while living here will illustrate: Founder of Nashville Symphony Orchestra (1920) and later of Nashville Choral Club and Vanderbilt
Founder and honorary member of Tennessee Music Teachers Association.
Organizer and Manager of Old Harp Singers of Nashville.
Organizer of Tennessee State Sacred Harp Singing Association, 1939.
President of Tennessee Folklore Society, 1942.
President of Southeastern Folklore Society, 1946.
Member of council, International Folk Music Council.

What has this great man, this renowned scholar, this active music leader, done for Sacred Harp singers: Two of his books in particular have told the Sacred Harp story.

In WHITE SPIRITUALS IN THE SOUTHERN UPLANDS (1933) he wrote “the story of the fasola folk, their songs, singings and ‘buckwheat notes.'” In his own words he described this book as a discussion of his work with early collections of spiritual folk-songs: “How and where I found them, what strange sorts of songs they contained, whence the unique notation in which the songs are recorded, who made, collected, and sang them, how, when and where they came into being, and how and where their singing persists at present.”

Closing his Foreword to the book he wrote: “My greatest inspiration has come from the southern ‘country singers,’ scores of them, whom I have met at ‘singings’ and the bigger convention, people who seemed glad to let me sing, talk, and eat with them and become their friend.”

What a friend he has been to us, and will continue to be as long as this book is read: (I understand it has been reissued recently as a paper back, which I hope many of you will read.)

A dozen years later, in 1944 on the centennial of the original publication of the SACRED HARP, he wrote THE STORY OF THE SCARED HARP — its footings in the Old Baptist music, how it came to be, its growth through various editions, an analysis of common criticisms, and the new interest in Sacred Harp tunes shown by their use by recognized twentieth century composers.

Through these two books George Pullen Jackson has helped the English speaking peoples throughout the world to know about Sacred Harp as a vital part of American’s musical heritage, as “a vigorously living book,” as an American institution.

One additional incident will help us to recall the dynamic influence of Dr. Jackson. Taking advantage of the rare occasion when in the early forties the twenty-ninth day of February fell on Sunday making a fifth Sunday in February,
he suggested that Sacred Harpers meet together for a special “school” to consider ways of singing more effectively. With the cooperation of several leaders the session was set up in the court house at Cullman, Alabama. Dr. Jackson and I spent the previous night in the home of Ruth Denson Edwards. I remember very clearly the points which he thought should be stressed in order to bring all Sacred Harp singing up to the best that he had heard.

  1. Singers should not try to sing higher than they can sing easily.
  2. We tend to sing all songs in a rapid tempo, whereas tempo should be according to the nature of the song.
  3. In some classes the singing is always loud, no natter what the words are about.
  4. We need to watch the leaders and stay with him exactly. Too often singers around the square try to set the speed, making for a ragged pulse.
  5. We should allow time for the rests, not come in ahead of them.

Such was Dr. Jackson’s spirit toward Sacred Harp. He lauded its virtues and strengths to the whole world; at the same time he worked for greater effectiveness. So as long as Sacred Harp songs and voices are lifted up in praise we shall be indebted to him.

Irving Wolfe
Sunday, September 12, 1965


Ruth Denson Edwards spoke to the Convention in honor of Dr. Jackson. A. M. Cagle sang pages 159-570. W. B. Matthews sang 209. Dr. Jackson’s daughter, Mrs. Fitzgerald Parker made a short talk, and memorial session for Dr. Jackson ended. Recess was then called.

Opened by Vice Chairman Ruth Denson Edwards with 345T. John Kerr was then called and he sang 402-304, followed by O. L. Johnson 215294; Willis Paige of the National Symphony Orchestra 457; R. E. Denson 470-558; Lillie Bell Ayers 508-212; Foy Fredrick 183-211; Margie Lacy 296-372. Recess.

The class was called to order by George M. Mattox with 29T. Followed by Billy Hambrick 460-371; Irene Parker 172; Bob McKemsey, General Manager of the National Symphony Orchestra 365; Ira James 348B-49B; Nora Parker 299-440.

A report was then given by the Memorial Committee as follows: We, your Committee on Memorials find that God in his infinite wisdom has called the following from the walks of man to their final home since we last met: Dee Wall, T. P. Woodard, Talmadge McCuller, Mrs. Ida McGraw, C. W. Woodard, Joe Hdson, W. D. Chapple, Mrs. L. L. Wilborn, Dr. Robert Grown, Tom King, L. E. McDowell, T. S. McClendon, H. B. Parker, Mrs. Minnie Belle Warren, Jim Barker, Elder W. E. Cagle, Robert Kidd, Luther McWhorter, Dr. Kendrick Geoble, Charles F. Bryan and Albert Davis. We recommend that this report be made part of the minutes.

John Kerr
Buford McGraw
W. A. Parker

Ed Thomas then led 455-442; Buford McGraw 408-404; Millard McWhorter 122-39. This concluded the Memorial lesson. Mrs. Ellie McDowell sang 3431, Dewey McCuller 336-441. The class was then dismissed one hour for

Opened by Chairman after lunch with 371, followed by Judy Henry 67-396; L. P. Odom 428-141; Zera Tollison 384-500; W. A. Parker 464-498; Mrs. Arlen Webb 491-560; Noah Lacy 57-205; Dr. M. O. Slaughter 98-186; Leman Brown 232-254; Kelley Beard 480-435; Dr. Irving Wolfe 89-64.

The Convention went into a short business session. Financial Report given by Lloyd Redding that as of November 23, 1965 the convention had cash in treasury of $436.77.

Resolutions Committee report: We, your Committee on Resolutions submit the following:

  1. Be it resolved Members of the United Sacred Harp Musical Association offer thanks to the Almighty God for His many blessings since our last meeting. We humbly beseech and beg His guidance and blessings through the coming year.
  2. Be it also resolved that the visitors express sincere appreciation to the singers and friends in Harpeth Valley and surrounding communities for the generous way in which they have entertained the convention.
  3. Be it further resolved we express thanks to the Commissioner of Agriculture for the use of the building and its facilities, and to Mr. James B. Stahlman and his staff of the Nashville Banner for their cooperation.
  4. Be it also resolved that we express our appreciation to the officers and Committeemen for a job well done.

Respectfully submitted,

M. F. McWhorter
Charlene Wallace
Irene Parker

Opened after a short recess by Chairman leading 155. The following leaders were called: Palmer Godsey 37B; Fay Thomas 53; Batrices Ezell 35B; Mrs. Preston Crider 434-454; Susie Southner 480; Lloyd Redding 285T; Chairman Rev. Priestley Miller sang 330B. Chaplin R. E. Denson dismissed the Convention with prayer.

Rev. Priestley Miller,
Ruth Denson Edwards,
Vice Chairman
Lloyd Redding,
Secretary and Treasurer
Miss Joyce Smith,
Assistant Secretary and Treasurer

This convention will meet September 10–11, 1966 at Wilson Chapel Church near Carrollton, Georgia.

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