1997 Hall of Fame Inductees

Lee Roy Abernathy

Lee Roy Abernathy (1913 – 1993)
Inducted in 1997

The son of a sharecropper, Lee Roy Abernathy was one of the great teachers of Southern Gospel Music. He tutored and inspired countless gospel singers and musicians. Lee Roy was widely known for pioneering sheet music in gospel music circles and also for an innovative teaching technique, begun in 1945, his famous “Modern Gospel Piano Course By Mail.”

In addition he was a noted performer, having worked with the Atco Quartet, the Electrical Workers Quartet, the Rangers, the Homeland Harmony Quartet, the Miracle Men Quartet and as a member of Happy Two with Carrol “Shorty” Bradford.

Abernathy was also a recognized songwriter, composing such standards as “A Newborn Feeling,” “He’s a Personal Savior,” and “Everybody’s Gonna Have a Wonderful Time Up There” (Gospel Boogie).

Teacher, performer, creator, and innovator, Lee Roy Abernathy left an indelible imprint through his many contributions to the world of Southern Gospel.

Wendy Bagwell

Wendy Bagwell (1925 – 1996)
Inducted in 1997

Wendy Bagwell’s greatest legacy to the world of Southern Gospel Music was the gift of laughter.

An adept storyteller and master entertainer, Bagwell was one of the first to introduce humorous themes into Southern Gospel Music recordings.

This “entertainer’s entertainer” formed the Sunliters in 1953 following service in the United States Marine Corps. For more than four decades, the group traveled throughout the world sharing the gospel through testimony and song.

Perhaps the most memorable release from the more than 60 recordings made by Wendy and the Sunliters was the 1970 hit, “Here Come the Rattlesnakes,” distinguished as the first certifiable million seller in Southern Gospel history.

Clarice Howard "Ma" Baxter

Clarice Howard “Ma” Baxter (1898 – 1972)
Inducted in 1997

For more than four decades, Clarice Baxter worked to build and nurture one of gospel music’s most prestigious publishing companies.

Clarice developed her life-long love of sacred music while attending singing schools near her DeKalb County, Georgia home. After her marriage to J. R. Baxter in 1918, she gave up her position as a teacher to join her husband in his work with the A. J. Showalter Company.

Beginning in 1926, when the Baxters became part owners of the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company, she joined the staff and worked for the remainder of her life as one of the key figures in both the printing operation and in the annual Stamps-Baxter School of Music.

Upon her husband’s death in 1960, Clarice assumed the mantel of President and General Manager of Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing-becoming the first woman to hold sole responsibility of such a business in the gospel music community.

Jesse Randall “J.R.” Baxter

Jesse Randall “J.R.” Baxter (1887 – 1960)
Inducted in 1997

J. R. “Pap” Baxter was a pioneering figure in the development of Southern Gospel Music. Individually and through his partnership with V.O. Stamps, his impact on commercial gospel music was immeasurable.

After an early career with the A. J. Showalter Company, he joined forces with fellow entrepreneur V. O. Stamps in 1926 and the pair created one of the most successful companies in the gospel music field, The Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company.

The annual Stamps-Baxter School of Music trained several generations of young people throughout the South in the fundamentals of composing and performing gospel music. Baxter helped to popularize gospel music throughout the country through the publication of shape-note songbooks and by sponsoring numerous quartets on the radio. Shape-note songbooks from the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company found their way into homes and churches throughout America.

Lester George “Les” Beasley

Lester George “Les” Beasley (1928 – 2018)
Inducted in 1997

Les Beasley’s contribution to the growth and success of Southern Gospel Music in the second half of the twentieth century was enormous.

After a brief stint with the McManus Trio, he became lead singer for the Gospel Melody Quartet in 1953. The group soon changed its name to the Florida Boys Quartet and, by the late 50s, Les had assumed the role as the quartet’s manager.

Under his direction, the Florida Boys became one of the best-known groups in Southern Gospel history.

In the 1960s and 70s, Beasley co-produced the popular syndicated television program The Gospel Singing Jubilee, which helped to expand the boundaries of gospel music beyond the Southeast. Les also served as President of the Gospel Music Association from 1970 through 1971 and co-designed the Dove award statue.

James Webre Blackwood

Albert Brumley

David Parker “Dad” Carter

Denver Dale Crumpler

John Daniel

James “Jimmie” Houston Davis

John Wallace Fowler

Charles F. “Rusty” Goodman

Connor Brandon Hall

Herman Clay Harper

W. Jake Hess

William James “Bill” Gaither

Hovie Franklin Lister

Eva Mae Whittington-LeFevre

Urias LeFevre

Thomas Mosie Lister

Benjamin Marvin Norcross

Wilmer Berney “W. B.” Nowlin

Lloyd Orrell

Oren A. “O. A.” Parris

Glen Weldon Payne

Dottie Luttrell Rambo

George Thomas “Dad” Speer

Jackson Brock Speer

Lena Brock “Mom” Speer

Frank Howard Stamps

Virgil Oliver “V. O.” Stamps

John Daniel “J.D.” Sumner

Glenn Kieffer Vaughan

James David Vaughan

Big Jim Waits

James Stephen “Big Chief” Wetherington

Jesse Gillis “J. G.” Whitfield