Roger Douglas Bennett

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Roger Douglas Bennett (1959 – 2007)
Inducted in 2007

Born March 10, 1959, Roger grew up in Strawberry, Arkansas. Roger was 15 years old when he played for his first Gospel group, the Wayfaring Singers of Lynn, AR. In November of 1979, Roger fulfilled his life-long dream of being part of professional Southern Gospel music when he was invited by Glen Payne and George Younce to join the legendary Cathedral Quartet as pianist. Though he would leave the group for two years (1987-1989) to serve as the president of Journey Records, Roger was the group’s pianist at the time of the quartet’s retirement in 1999.

When the Cathedral Quartet announced their retirement, Roger and Cathedral baritone, Scott Fowler, organized Legacy Five in order to continue the tradition of outstanding gospel music to which they had become accustomed. In 2004, Roger fulfilled another dream (having his own successful quartet) when readers of Singing News voted Legacy Five as the Favorite Traditional Male Quartet. Although an excellent singer, Roger is best remembered as pianist–and often a comedian–for the Cathedrals and Legacy Five. Roger received the Singing News Fan Award for Favorite Southern Gospel pianist 14 years in row (1993-2006). He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2006 as a member of the Cathedral Quartet.

Songwriting was another gift of Roger Bennett. Many of his songs appeared on the recordings of the Cathedrals, Legacy Five and others. “I Read the Back of the Book”, “Heroes of the Faith”, “Healing”, and “Jesus Saves”. His writing talent was not limited to just songs, however, Roger was a contributing editor to Singing News, writing his monthly article, “Midnight Meditations.” Also, during his gospel music career, Roger taught many pianists through his gospel piano video series.

Roger was diagnosed with leukemia in 1995. He died March 17, 2007.

Anthony John Berger

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Anthony John Burger (1961 – 2006)
Inducted in 2007

Anthony Burger was born June 5, 1961, in Cleveland, Tennessee. After suffering third degree burns on his hands at eight months of age, Burger’s doctor told his parents he wouldn’t likely be able to move his hands in the future. Despite the odds, Burger was healed. At the age of five, he was accepted as a pinao student at the Cadek Conservatory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A child prodigy, Burger was playing a classical piano repertoire within a few years. Burger’s first recording, Anthony Burger At The Lowry Organ, was released in 1975 when he was 14 years old. He joined the Kingsmen Quartet while still a teen and remained with them until 1992. During that time, Burger recorded nineteen projects with the group and was voted the Favorite Pianist in the Singing News Fan Awards for an unprecedented ten years.

In 1992, Burger joined the Gaither Homecoming Tour. The Hazelton Brothers piano company honored Burger just after the turn of the century when they began offering an “Anthony Burger Signature” model. In 2005, Steinway & Sons announced that Burger was being added to their exclusive roster of endorsing artists, making him the first Southern Gospel pianist to ever hold that honor.

On February 22, 2006, Burger died while performing aboard a cruise ship chartered for a Gaither Gospel Cruise. Burger was playing the Dottie Rambo song “We Shall Behold Him” on the piano when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

His life can easily be summed up by a quote he himself stated: “I am a simple man with a majestic instrument and the power of God behind me.” That’s the life he lived. That’s the life he loved, and that’s the legacy he leaves.

Joel Wesley Hemphill

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Joel Wesley Hemphill (1939 – )
Inducted in 2007

Born August 1, 1939, in Fresno, CA, Joel Hemphill is a noted singer-songwriter, evangelist, musician, and author. He and his wife, LeBreeska, formed the Singing Hemphills in the mid 1960s, traveling the quartet circuit to much acclaim. Their concert repertoire primarily consisted of Joel’s own compositions. The Hemphill patriarch has penned over 350 songs, many of which became Gospel Music classics. His songs included such hits as “Pity the Man,” “Not in a Million Years,” and “Wait Till You See My Brand-New Home.”

Hemphill wrote and recorded six #1 songs which include “I’m In This Church,” “Good Things,” “I’ll Soon Be Gone,” “It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Built The Ark,” and “He’s Still Workin’ On Me,” which topped the “Singing News” chart for eight months. Over a twenty-year period, from 1970-1990, Hemphill had an average #8 song on the “Singing News” Chart. Other powerful songs penned by Hemphill are: “Master of the Wind,” “Consider the Lilies,” “I Claim the Blood,” and “The Only Real Peace.”
Along with his singing family, Hemphill is the recipient of eight (8) Dove Awards. Joel has received three (3) BMI Awards of Excellence.
Hemphill’s television appearances include, The Grand Ole Opry, Crook and Chase, The 700 Club, TBN and Gospel Country. They appeared regularly on the Gaither Homecoming videos and were invited guest at the White House for a Gospel singing when President Jimmy Carter was in office.

Lou Wills-Hildreth

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Lou Wills-Hildreth (1928 – )
Inducted in 2007

Born in Memphis, Texas on July 13, 1928, Lou Wills-Hildreth has worn many hats in the Gospel Music field.

A member of the Singing Wills Family, noted promoter, journalist, publisher, and songwriter, Lou has been an industry leader and is the first female to have owned her own booking agency – the Nashville Talent Agency. Lou was part-owner of Sword & Shield Recording & Publishing Company publishing songs such as: “In the Shelter of His Arms,” “Now I Have Everything,” “I’m Gonna Walk, Talk, and Sing,” and “There Is A River.” Lou is the writer of songs such as: “Keep a Happy Heart,” “If I Didn’t Have Jesus By My Side,” “America, There is Hope,” and “Bought By the Blood”.

Lou served on the board of directors of many prominent gospel music agencies, including the Texas Music Hall of Fame, the Southern Gospel Music Association, and the Gospel Music Association where she served for over 20 years. As a television personality, Lou was the hostess of the Wills Family Inspirational Time, Hill Country Gospel, Inside Gospel, Family Lifestyles, and Nashville Gospel, a daily talk show. Lou was inducted into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998 and was the first James Blackwood Award recipient.

Lou Wills-Hildreth will best be remembered for her contribution as a wonderful goodwill ambassador of Gospel Music throughout the nation.

James E. "Jimmy" Jones

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James E. “Jimmy” Jones (1921 – 2006)
Inducted in 2007

Jimmy Jones was born February 5, 1921, in Scottsville, KY, and grew up in a singing family. An author, poet, and singer, Jimmy also was an excellent musician.

His professional career began in March 1944 after his discharge from the Army’s Medical Division. He began singing on KTHS radio in Hot Springs AR, with Otis Echols and the Melody Boys Quartet. Moving to Dallas, TX, in 1951, Jimmy joined the Rangers Quartet as bass singer. In 1954 he and his brother Brownie formed the Deep South Quartet in Atlanta, GA, and worked the regular concert circuit until 1956 when they moved to Washington, D.C., to perform and work with Jimmy Dean on his popular television show. In 1957, Jones joined the LeFevres, and it was during this time that the Gospel Singing Caravan was formed and toured throughout the US and Canada. Jimmy was featured on the weekly Caravan Shows in an audience favorite segment, “Poetry Corner with Jimmy Jones,” highlighting some of his exceptionally touching poetry. Upon retirement from the road, Jones remained in Atlanta, GA, where he owned and operated the LeFevres’ Sing Publishing Company until 1975. Until his death, Jimmy maintained a part-time quartet, The Heralds, which consisted of the same personnel for their entire 23-year tenure.

Jimmy was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993, was the recipient of the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion’s Living Legend Award in 1995, was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in September 2005 as a member of the Sunshine Boys Quartet, and was awarded a plaque from the Gaither Homecoming for his ten-year participation in the popular gospel music series. Some of the outstanding songs from the pen of Jimmy Jones are “The Common Man,” “Lord, It’s Me Again,” “A Table Spread with Love,” and “I Won’t Have to Worry Anymore.”

David Reece

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David Reece (1928 – 1999)
Inducted in 2007

Born August 28, 1928, David Reece was a native of Jonesville, NC. A multi-talented individual, he had a lovely baritone voice, was an excellent pianist, an exceptional arranger, a gifted songwriter, and one of the funniest men in gospel music.

Reece played for many of the major quartets in Southern Gospel Music including the Blue Ridge Quartet, the Rangers Quartet, the Imperial Sugar Quartet, the Harvesters Quartet, Stamps Ozark Quartet and the Deep South Quartet. In the late 1950s, Reece formed the supreme male trio, the Rangers Trio. Their exceptionally smooth sound was built around David’s rich baritone voice and his understated piano technique, and many of the group’s performances were Reece’s compositions.

His recording, “Musical Meditations” was one of the first instrumental albums to be released by a gospel music artist. Using all of David’s skills to perfection, the Rangers Trio became the standard by which other trios were judged. In addition to the popular gospel songs of the day, the Rangers Trio also performed some novelty songs that became standards for the group. One such song was “The Mockingbird,” a crowd favorite for as long as the Rangers performed. David co-authored the well-known Jimmie Davis song, “So Many Reasons.”

After a long career in gospel music, Reece worked in the secular entertainment field both as a musician with Mel Tillis and writer of comedy for artists including the beloved Minnie Pearl.

James Leon Sego

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James Leon Sego (1927 – 1979)
Inducted in 2007

Born October 1, 1927, James Sego was filled with one burning desire as a youth in the rural South —to be a gospel singer. Years of hard work and determination saw that dream turned into a reality. In 1941, Sego sang with his brother, Lamar, and sister, Blondean, as the Sego Family on radio station WMGA in Moultrie, GA. In 1946, James, along with his brothers W.R. and Lamar, organized a quartet called the Harmony Kings. They were heard on the Mutual Broadcasting Network on 458 stations. Sego stated, “Had it not been for shape notes I would not have learned to sing properly”. The quartet first appeared with Uncle Ned and his Hayloft Jamboree on WMAZ-TV in Macon, GA. in 1958 as the Sego Brothers and Naomi.

Sego is credited with writing several songs such as “We’ll Have A Good Time” and “I’ll Really Be Free”. The Sego Brothers and Naomi recorded the first million-seller in Southern Gospel music, “Sorry I Never Knew You”.

James Sego succeeded in gospel music against all odds. In the beginning, the popular groups shunned him, his alcoholic days (which he overcame) nearly ruined his health, and two paralyzing strokes almost killed him – yet he continued. Sego didn’t dress fancy or resort to stage acrobatics, nor did he engage in saccharin sweet testimonies that lacked reality. He simply belted out the gospel in a heart warming “down home” style—that many found refreshing.

Sego died July 24, 1979, while undergoing open heart surgery.

Archie Watkins

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Archie Watkins (1949 – )
Inducted 2007

Archie Watkins was born January 6, 1949, in Bryson City, NC. Raised in a family with a deep love of gospel music, Watkins and his family would get together regularly to play musical instruments and sing, eventually resulting in friends and family organizing The Inspirations in 1964 when Archie was only 15 years old. The Inspirations – with Archie singing the tenor part – became a household name in professional gospel music.

During Archie’s years with the Inspirations, the quartet had more songs placed on The Singing News Radio Airplay Charts than any other group, and Archie was the featured vocalist on more charting songs than any singer, including several Songs of The Year and those that peaked atop the radio charts. Recipient of Singing News Favorite Male Singer and Favorite Tenor on various occasions, Archie also received the most prestigious honor given by the Singing News Magazine – the Marvin Norcross Award. Watkins also served as a member of the Southern Gospel Music Association’s Advisory Board.

As one of Southern Gospel Music’s true legends, Archie Watkins established himself at the top of his field in success, stature and the respect of his peers. After singing a year with the Bryson City Quartet – a regional gospel singing group from, and named for, his North Carolina hometown – Archie spent his entire professional singing career with The Inspirations Quartet. Known for his distinctive voice and trademark singing stance on song endings, his voice is identified as giving the Inspirations their trademark sound and his tenure with the quartet is a model of consistency in the Southern Gospel Music world.

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