Jim Hamill

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Jim Hamill (1934 – 2007)
Inducted in 2004

Jim Hamill, one of Southern Gospel’s all-time great lead singers, sang professionally for over 50 years and  until shortly before his death, was still going strong.

A native of Memphis, son of Rev. James E. Hamill, for many years pastor of First Assembly of God in Memphis, Jim joined the Weatherfords in the early 1950's.  And then came times with the Blue Ridge Quartet, the Rebels, the Oak Ridge Quartet, the Rebels again, and finally, for almost 28 years he sang the lead for the Kingsmen.

He and the late Eldridge Fox split duties with the Kingsmen, Eldridge handling the business, and Jim directing their stage performances. He also arranged their music and chose the songs they sang in concert.

Hamill was an extremely funny man, entertaining audiences not only with a wide-ranging, clear voice in song but also with much humor as the emcee of the Kingsmen.

Kenny Hinson

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Kenny Hinson (1953 – 1995)
Inducted in 2004

Considered to be one of Southern Gospel Music’s most gifted vocalists, Kenny Hinson has become an icon to the genre’s followers. His trademark vocal stylings have prompted countless imitators, supplying evidence that Hinson was a major influence on rising singers.

Featured on the classic song, “The Lighthouse” and many other top charting songs, Kenny Hinson was a dominating vocal force in Southern Gospel Music for over 20 years as he, his brothers and sister would travel the country as one of Southern Gospel Music’s favorite groups.

Kenny was named Singing News Fan Awards Lead Singer of the Year in 1976, 1978 and 1980. The Hinsons were named Singing News Fan Awards Group of the Year in 1979.

After the group disbanded in 1988, Hinson pastored a church in Houston, TX, and continued to make an occasional singing appearance as time permitted. In 1993, as the Hinsons were embarking on a reunion tour, Hinson was diagnosed with the cancer that would claim his life in 1995 at the age of 41.

Arnold Hyles

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Arnold Hyles (1917 – 1979)
Inducted in 2004

Arnold Hyles, an original member of the famous Rangers Quartet, had a bass voice that has never been duplicated. His loud, gruff voice was the foundation of one of the most famous quartets in the history of Gospel Music.

The Rangers Quartet made its mark in Gospel Music by spotlighting their “basso-profundo” Arnold Hyles. This group made inroads where no gospel quartet had been before.

A tragic automobile accident in 1951 crippled Mr. Hyles, but his voice continued to thrill the audiences for many years thereafter. Arnold Hyles died March 15th 1979. A tragic footnote: immediately after the funeral Mr. Hyles’s son Gene and his wife were taking the preacher and his wife to the Dallas airport, when they were struck by another vehicle and all four were killed.

Lillian Little Soldier Klaudt

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Lillian Little Soldier Klaudt (1906 – 2001)
Inducted in 2004

Lillian Little Soldier Klaudt, matriarch of the famous Klaudt Indian Family, had a heart for missions.

She was born June 29, 1906 on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in Beaver Creek, North Dakota. Her life was spent spreading the word of God all over the country. The Klaudt Indian Family moved from the Dakota Badlands so that her children could attend the Church of God’s Bible Training School in Cleveland, Tennessee.

This talented family often appeared in full Indian regalia and featured a vast array of instruments in their programs. They were one of the best loved groups on the Wally Fowler All Night Singings. The popularity of the group continued through the 60s as they were fixtures on the Bob Poole Show as well as other Gospel Music programs.

At the age of 90, “Mom” Klaudt made her last stage appearance at 1996 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion with her family. She passed away March 3, 2001. “Mom” Klaudt was always a crowd favorite with her heartfelt rendition of “Blessed Assurance”.

Harvey Bryant Lester

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Harvey Bryant Lester (1902 – 1982)
Inducted in 2004

Harvey Lester has been credited for the expansion of Southern Gospel Music west of the Mississippi through the avenue of concerts.

He and his family owned the Kingsland Theater in St. Louis, Missouri. In the early 1950’s this venue became a favorite place for the groups of that day to appear including the Blackwood Brothers, Statesmen, Speer Family, and others.

Radio and television also played an important role in the promotion of Gospel Music in the mid-west. The Lesters were one of the first groups to have a weekly radio and TV show. Their TV show, “The Lester Family Sings” aired on the St. Louis NBC affiliate for an unprecedented 27 years, helping to introduce Southern Gospel Music to a whole new audience.

Harvey Lester was a kind, gentle man who had no enemies. As patriarch of The Lester Family you can still see his influence on the family’s singing career that spans more than 8 decades.

Ed O’Neal

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Ed O’Neal (1936 – )
Inducted in 2004

For the past four decades, Ed O’Neal has led the Dixie Melody Boys to become one of Southern Gospel Music’s most loved and respected quartets.

While growing up in Raleigh, NC, O’Neal often sang with his two brothers and his mother’s family in area churches. In 1958, he joined the Serenaders and two years laters, he joined the Gospel Harmony Quartet. In 1961, he became a part of the Dixie Melody Boys, the group he now owns and manages.

Over the years, O’Neal has become well-respected for his ability to recognize young talent and as a result, he has helped to originate the careers of many people in Southern Gospel Music today. Also an outstanding songwriter, O’Neal composed one of Southern Gospel Music’s most recognized songs, “When I Cross To The Other Side Of Jordan.”

Conley “London” Parris

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Conley “London” Parris (1931 – 1992)
Inducted in 2004

Conley “London” Parris was the consummate performer. He possessed a large, booming bass voice and a dynamic personality that always made him a crowd favorite.

Given the name “London” by Lee Roy Abernathy, he took the world of Gospel Music by storm when he replaced Big Jim Waits as bass singer for the Rebels Quartet.

After singing with the Rebels for many years, London joined the Blackwood Brothers. In the early 1970s, he formed London Parris and the Apostles which won the Dove Award for most promising new gospel talent in 1971.

He was famous for his renditions of “At the Crossing” and “Little Boy Lost”, but the classic “Everybody Ought to Know” will forever be remembered as his signature song.

Derrell Stewart

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Derrell Stewart (1934 – )
Inducted in 2004

“Derrell Stewart has no equal,” states Roger Bennett.

Born October 6, 1934, in Brunswick, Georgia, Derrell was an only child. His father was a concert promoter; therefore, Derrell was exposed to Southern Gospel Music at a very young age. His parents insisted he study piano, and lessons began at age five.

Derrell joined his first full time quartet, The Dixie Rythm Quartet, in 1953. It was during this time he began wearing his famous red socks. He joined the Florida Boys Quartet in 1956 and has been there for forty-eight years.

He gained national fame with his numerous appearances on “The Gospel Singing Jubilee,” America’s largest national Southern Gospel Music television program. He won the first Singing News Magazine Fan Award as Favorite Pianist of the year in 1970, and has been named pianist of the year several times.

Derrell is loved for his superb humor and his very own classic piano style. Often proclaimed as a Southern Gospel Music Treasure, Derrell Strewart maintained a servant’s heart and spent his life serving God and Southern Gospel Music.

James D. Walbert

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James D. Walbert (1918 – 2009)
Inducted in 2004

James D. Walbert was an extraordinary pianist and composer.

Known as the “wizard of the keyboard,” he is related to two current members of the SGMA Hall of Fame. He was the son of W. B. Walbert and the grandson of James D. Vaughan.

He began his Gospel Music career in the 1930's as pianist for the Vaughan Radio Quartet for which he played internationally. He has performed in concert with Liberace, Jerry Lee Lewis, Red Skelton, and Judy Garland.

He brought a flamboyant style to the Gospel Music stage, much to the chagrin of his father. James Walbert was a classically trained musician, and a very gifted piano teacher in both the sacred and secular fields.

Charles Vaughan

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Charles Wesley Vaughan (1875 – 1965)
Inducted in 2004

Charles Vaughan, brother of James D. Vaughan, was the original bass singer for the famous Vaughan Quartet. He was a very early quartet manager, as he managed several versions of the Vaughan Quartet.

Charles Vaughan was a creative song writer, as well as composing music for other great writers’ lyrics such as James Rowe’s “He Knows How,” which is still sung today at many singing conventions. He later became editor of the Vaughan’s “Family Visitor,” a publication of the Vaughan Music Company from 1923-1938 after the death of B.C. Unseld.

He also served as mayor of Lawrenceburg, TN, in 1927 for a four year term, and in 1935 he served as Judge and State Senator for four years.

B.C. Unseld

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Benjamin Carl Unseld (1843 – 1923)
Inducted in 2004

Born October 18, 1843 Benjamin Carl Unseld was a well known teacher of Gospel Music.

Prior to teaching Gospel Music, he was an instructor at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Unseld taught at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and helped train Fisk’s Jubilee Singers for their European trip.

He also was the first principal of the Virginia Normal School of Music and insisted that round notes be taught there in addition to traditional gospel shaped notes. Through this, the graduates of the school had a well-rounded music education. At the time of his death, he was known as Uncle Ben and the musical father of nearly all the successful normal teachers of the South.

He put music to the writings of such greats as James Rowe and Fanny Crosby; his most popular musical piece was written by A.S. Kieffer titled “Twilight Is Falling.”

From 1913 until his death in 1923, he was editor of the “Musical Visitor” published by the Vaughan Music Company and Principal of the Vaughan School of Music as well.

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