MELVIN "CHIEF" KLAUDT
CLASS OF 2020
Born June 5, 1933, on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in northwest North Dakota, Melvin Klaudt began singing with his famous gospel music family at the age of 11. Dubbed “Chief” at an early age because of his leadership abilities (even though he was not the oldest of Reverend Reinhold and Lillian Little Soldier Klaudt’s five children), he would spend much of the next forty years of his life associated with one of the most unique singing groups in all of gospel music. A talented musician and singer, his association as a singing member of the Klaudts gave him multiple opportunities to spread the message of Southern Gospel music on stage, through musical recordings, and on television. In the crowded world of “Golden Age” Southern Gospel music, no group could command attention any better than the Klaudt Indian Family—mixing varied vocal arrangements and multiple instruments with a full range of ages from parents down to school-age children. They mixed that considerable talent with a compelling story steeped in Americana—born from the marriage between a German immigrant farm boy and an Arikara reservation girl descended from Indian scouts who served alongside General George Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. They also were steeped in the theology and evangelism of the Cleveland, Tennessee-based Church of God—allowing them to combine church-based revival meetings alongside the larger Wally Fowler-produced All Night Sings and municipal concerts.
After the family retired from singing in 1982, Melvin focused on a business career but events and his love for gospel music and its message kept bringing him back to memorial concerts and reunion events. In 2002, Melvin along with his three brothers and his sister, formed the Klaudt Memorial Indian Foundation to promote music and religious studies educational scholarships for students with a native background. Since 2010, he has produced and hosted the weekly syndicated television program entitled “Just Keep Singing.” Melvin’s unique background and talents continue to give him a platform for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in both word and song.
DOROTHY LEONARD MILLER
CLASS OF 2020
Being a vessel for the Lord requires complete willingness to follow His will for your life instead of choosing your own path. Far from a passive journey, this life takes discipline, hard work, and determination. Such has been the life of Dottie Leonard Miller. With a background of sales and promotion at Calvary Records and Windchime Records, she started New Day Christian Distributors (the name came courtesy of Dr. Jerry Goff) March 1, 1981. New Day’s offerings began with Christian and Gospel music and New Day remains true to music today by distributing to Christian retail great independent artists and major record labels. Other products, like toys, films, books, and gifts have been added to the mix to best serve New Day’s Christian retail partners.
The network of Christian retailers buying music from New Day grew rapidly and with it a demand for more product. This opportunity led to the creation of Daywind Soundtracks with veteran producer, Ronnie Drake, to provide individual accompaniment tracks for the most popular Gospel songs of the day. A suggestion from Singing News editor, Jerry Kirksey, prompted Dottie to launch Daywind Records in 1987. Many of the top artists and songwriters in Southern Gospel music have found a home at Daywind over the years, impacting millions of people annually through live performances, music sales, and radio and television on a yearly basis
Daywind Music Group now includes Daywind Records, Daywind Performance Tracks, Daywind Music Publishing, and Daywind Studios. Millions have been reached with the Gospel through singer’s around the world performing Christian and Gospel songs using Daywind Soundtracks. In 2018, Miller started the Daywind Music Foundation dedicated to spreading Southern Gospel music to the world, adding to her many philanthropic endeavors.
MEURICE ELDON LEFEVRE (1937-2019)
CLASS OF 2020
Born September 20, 1937, into the already-famous LeFevre Trio family, Meurice LeFevre dedicated his life to improving the world of Southern Gospel music. The son of Urias and Eva Mae LeFevre, he took the opportunity on occasion to sing and play trombone with his famous parents and his Uncle Alphus LeFevre. But in the final analysis, he discovered ways behind the scenes that greatly enhanced and advanced the world of Southern Gospel. In 1959, he founded Atlanta’s Sing Record Company, one of the first state-of-the-art recording studios to emerge from within the gospel music world. Sing Records and LeFevre Sound Studios both became primary vehicles for the production and distribution of gospel music products.
In addition, Meurice was a champion advocate for promoting and preserving the history and the important impact of Southern Gospel on American music and culture. He was actively involved in the inception of the Gospel Music Association in the early 1960s and served as the first Chairman of the Board of the GMA Hall of Fame. Ultimately serving four terms on the Gospel Music Association Board of Directors, he was influential in securing a designated Grammy award for the field of Southern Gospel. He also was a founding member and served as president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
CLASS OF 2020
Dianne Wilkinson’s greatest objective in writing Gospel songs is to share the message of the Gospel through lyrics that are grounded in the Word of God and are married to memorable music that touches one’s soul. Dianne has been writing Southern Gospel music since the 1970s. Beginning in 1976, a string of her songs were recorded by a few regional and national artists. This attracted the attention of the legendary Cathedral Quartet that led to a very close relationship that would continue for two decades until the groups retirement in 1999. Two of their signature songs, “We Shall See Jesus” and “Boundless Love” were among the 16 they recorded that were penned by Dianne. In the early 2000s, she established a similar relationship with the Kingdom Heirs, which has resulted in more than 60 of her songs, including many of their chart toppers, finding a home on their albums. Her songs have been recorded by virtually all the Gospel quartets, and many of the trios, mixed groups, soloists as well.
The SGMA honored Dianne in 2000 as the first woman to be nominated for Songwriter of the Year. She received the non-artist Songwriter of the Year from the Singing News Fan Awards every year it was awarded. The SGMG bestowed upon her The Lifetime Achievement Honor in 2013. The number of her songs that has reached the #1 position on the charts is in the double digits. Her songs have received numerous nominations and awards including many Singing News Fan Awards, Dove Awards, NQC Awards, BMI Awards and IBMA Awards. Dianne wrote her 1000th song in 2016, “Just Another Mile”, which was recorded by the Kingdom Heirs. And she faithfully continues to use the talent she received from her Creator to craft nearly 40 songs every year.
Dianne Wilkinson lives in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and is retired from a career in healthcare that lasted over 40 years. She has been a church pianist since the age of 12, and currently fills that role at Springhill Baptist Church where she also teaches the Open Door Sunday School Class. Gospel quartet singing became her favorite music when she was blessed to attend “all night singings” in Memphis during the 1950s. Gospel quartet music continues to be her signature style.