Monday, December 14, 2020

Harlan Ogle, I Will Miss You

I am saddened by the death of my friend, Bro. Harlan Ogle, who died today at the age of 79. He was a big supporter of mine when i was on the air at WFLW. As a matter of fact, he often wrote that i was the closest thing to the late legendary WFLW broadcaster Eddie Neal that Wayne countians were going to hear in this life. That was huge and I was honored that he would think that.

One of my favorite things that Bro. Ogle did was he routinely portrayed Raccoon John Smith at churches and other gatherings throughout the region. Smith grew up at Clear Fork Baptist Church in Albany, KY during the very early 1800's. His father had been one of its the original members. But, in his early adult years, Raccoon John left Clear Fork and became a leading proponent of the Early Restoration Movement within the Christian church. Bro. Ogle, a lifelong member of the Christian church, and long-time pastor at Monticello, KY Christian Church, was great in his role as the legendary frontier preacher. On one occasion, he rode into Burkesville on a horse, dismounted at Veterans Park, and in full costume proceeded to preach one of Smith's sermons word for word.

You could often find Bro. Ogle at Wayne County's museum. He loved Wayne County and put in an untold number of hours researching its history and writing many stories and newspaper articles about it. That's how i got to know him. We often talked about stories each of us had written and he was always helpful to me in my research. I will miss him, but am thankful for the great legacy he leaves behind. Maybe the city and/or county will do something in his honor, like name a street after him or something. I hope so. RIP my friend. Prayers to his family and many friends who mourn his passing.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Oh Rest Beside the Weary Road and Hear the Angels Sing

O ye beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing

From an 1849 poem by Edmund Sears
"It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Charley Pride: When it was Simple and Good

How sad it is that Charley Pride would leave us in 2020, in this crazy, awful year of a pandemic, instead of in his world of burgers and fries and cherry pies. It was simple and good back then, he said of that world we used to know.

Charley was one of my favorite country music singers of all-time. In the 1970's he sold more records than any other artist at RCA, with the exception of Elvis. He was country music's first black singer and he was a member of her hall of fame.

Dolly Parton said, "It's sad enough that he has passed away, and it's even worse knowing he died from COVID-19." I agree. So very sad.

I have always loved his music and i loved playing his songs on the radio. If there is one thing of his we can always be thankful for it is his songs. Kiss an angel good morning, Charley. May you Rest in Peace.

Charley Pride
1934 - 2020

Randy Speck
WANY Radio
Albany, KY

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Love of God is Greater Far

Frederick Martin Lehman was born in Germany in 1868. His family emigrated to America when he was four, settling in Iowa. Although he became a Nazarene minister, the majority of his life was devoted to writing sacred songs. Sometime around 1917, just before moving to California, he attended a campmeeting where he the preacher quoted what would become the third verse of his song “The Love of God.”

"Could we with ink the ocean fill
and were the skies of parchment made,
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill
and ev'ry man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
tho' stretched from sky to sky."

The preacher said the words had been found written on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave. It was later found that the scribbled message had been adapted from a poem written sometime between 1050 and 1096 in Germany, where Lehman had been born.

Lehman was so moved by the words that he wrote them down for future use. It wasn't until after he had settled in California that his hymn would be completed. One day during a break at his job in a produce factory, he picked up a scrap piece of paper and pencil and wrote the first two stanzas and the refrain.

"The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin"

"When hoary time shall pass away
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall
When men who here refuse to pray
On rocks and hills and mountains call
God's love, so sure, shall still endure
All measureless and strong
Redeeming grace to Adam's race
The saints' and angels' song"

"Oh, love of God, how rich and pure
How measureless and strong
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song"

During his life, Lehman wrote many poems, published hundreds of songs, and compiled five volumes of song books with the title Songs That Are Different. “The Love of God” first appeared in Volume Two of that series in 1919, although the copyright was obtained two years earlier. The translation of the third verse was made in 1917 by Joseph H. Hertz. Lehman left his own account concerning the writing of this hymn in a 1948 pamphlet entitled “History of the Song, The Love of God.” He died in 1953. Two other well-known Lehman songs are “The Royal Telephone” and “There’s No Disappointment in Heaven.”

In the uncertain times we live in today, with all that's going on with the pandemic, the political scene and what have you, let us remember the love of God is greater far. It shall forevermore endure!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Chuck Stockton's Legacy Will Live On

Charles "Chuck" Stockton's legacy was set in stone when, along about 1976, his uncle, Wendell Stockton, bought a citizens band radio and became one of the most well-known CB enthusiasts in Clinton County.

Having growin up around Wendell, it was only natural that Chuck would choose the profession he did. Dispatching became his passion. Chuck was a people-person and his people came to depend o him as their source for everything that went on in scannerland. In 40 years he never once let us down.

It was Chuck who put in a good word for me when i was hired at emergency services, and he was one of my dispatch partners. Quite often, I would remind him of how popular he was. All he had to do was put his name on the local election ballot and he would have easily won. Chuck had a loving heart. He was as kind, caring and compassionate as anyone i have ever known.

It broke my heart to take the 911 call, but i know God was with him, just as He was with me. So long Chuck. Until we meet again, your work here is done. The legacy you leave behind isn't something you left for people. It is what you placed inside us that we will always remember.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Essence of Living for Others

How attuned are you to the idea of thinking of others during this pandemic? The Greek philosopher Aristotle said the essence of life is to serve others and do good. Charles Meigs wrote it down over 100 years ago:

"Lord, help me live from day to day
in such a self-forgetful way
that even when I kneel to pray
my prayer shall be for others

Others, Lord, yes, others
let this my motto be
Help me to live for others
that I may live like Thee"

God wants us to live this way. Caring for others is central in His intentions for us. Concern for others is the defining approach to life if you desire to live God’s way. That idea is reflected in this hymn.

Meigs was a pioneer in the Sunday School movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. He wrote his words in 1902, and allowed it to be set to music in 1916. In telling the story of how it came to pass, he recounted that Gen. William Booth of the Salvation Army wanted to send New Year’s greetings by telegram to Salvation Army posts around the world. Since cablegrams were expensive, Booth condensed his vital message to just one word, 'Others.' Meigs was moved to pen a prayer that could be on the lips of anyone desiring to pursue that way of life.

The only way for us to get through these troubled times is by thinking of others' health and well-being, and of course our own as well. Please wear a mask and try your best to social distance.

"So when my work on earth is done
and my new work in heaven’s begun
I’ll praise You for the crown I’ve won
but praise You more for others"

Click on the video to listen to a recording of this hymn by Bro. Carl Davis, accompanied by my dad on guitar and Margaret Cook on organ. Originally from Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, Bro. Davis was an evangelist, pastor and singer, whose voice was known to thousands through his "Campaigns for Christ" radio broadcasts that aired on several radio and TV stations. Sadly, he was killed in an automobile accident near Nashville on May 2, 1964, not long after this recording was made.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Henry Slade Preached His Own Funeral

Although Bro. Henry C. Slade, Kentucky's famous "feud breaker," created perhaps more sensations during the course of his life than the average mountaineer of his state he broke all records the day his own voice preached a funeral sermon over his dead body, directed the music and made one last impassioned address to the rough people among whom he had lived and worked for so many years.

When this man, who in his little mountain church had won widespread fame was breathing his last in his humble cabin under the mountains, he had a talking machine drawn ⁵close to his bed and then poured into it the story of his life and a last plea to the rough mountaineers. This was the climax of his life's noble work.

Bro. Slade died on March 7, 1905 and a couple of days later the strange funeral service was held. Word had gone far and wide that the minister would preach his own funeral sermon, for the members of the congregation had spread the news till it became the wonder of the mountains. When the body was carried Into the church and placed upon the trestles in front of the altar, hundreds had gathered to hear the dead pastor presch. One of the minister's friends started the machine and a familiar voice spoke saying: "The Lord giveth and the lord taketh away."

He then invited the congregation to stand and join him in singing "Blest Be The Tie That Binds," afterwhich the dead preacher began telling his life story, his struggles, his hopes and his fears. He spoke of how the first three years of his pastorate church members met in each others homes because they had no meeting house, and how his efforts were rewarded in the fourth year when families, who for generations had bitterly fought each other, with many murders being the result, were brought into the Christian fold, and how those families had helped build a church building.

At the end of the sermon the voice admonished the people to be constant in well-doing. And then the voice asked the congregation to rise and sing "Jesus, Lover of my Soul" and the members of the church joined their dead pastor in that old hymn.

When the ceremony was over the congregation, awed and whispering, stood in groups while the body was borne out of the church to the burying ground, where it was laid to rest.

For eleven years, Bro. Slade had preached to his mountain congregation, first in the homes of the people and afterwards in the little church at Rideout. Through his efforts, the Howard-White feud, and the famous Tolliver feud were ended.

Bro. Slade had become interested in the talking machine while on a visit to Louisville, and on returning to the mountains took with a talking phonograph machine and a number of records, among which were the latest musical successes, the best in oratory and many humorous recitations. Such a luxury had never before been heard of in that remote mountain district, so when Bro. Slade turned his Wednesday evening prayer meetings into talking machine entertainments the church was crowded.

He became so impressed with the importance of the talking machine he believed he could do good after death, and hence conceived the Idea of preaching his own funeral sermon. By doing so he helped to settle the difficulties between many families who were threatening declare open war at any time.

Friday, July 31, 2020

William Armstrong Cooper

In all the years I have studied and researched the first one hundred years of my church on Clear Fork creek, I never paid close attention to the name "W.A. Cooper," or "Bro. Cooper," until just recently. Morris Gaskins' book, "A Lighthouse in the Wilderness," includes minutes from the first century, and while looking through them the other day, I realized that phrases like "preaching by WA Cooper" or "moderated by Bro. Cooper" that were written into the 1840's minutes were also written in the minutes from the 1880's. It was then that I came know more about William Armstrong Cooper.

"The Gospel Plow"

William Cooper, known as "Uncle Billy" to local folks, was born on Beaver Creek in Wayne County in 1813. He became a Christian in 1835 and was licensed to preach the same year. Three years later, in 1838, Clear Fork Baptist Church called him to act jointly with pastor Isaac Denton in helping with the church. But, his calling extended far beyond Isaac Denton. For the next seventy years he kept his hand on the gospel plow by, not only assisting Bro. Denton, but also the following two pastors, Isaac's son Joseph and Alvin Bertram, by preaching regularly or serving as moderator at business meetings. He baptized both men, Joseph in 1838 and Alvin in 1866. Although I haven't found any records saying it, more than likely he preached or assisted at Joseph Denton's funeral in 1887, and probably Isaac Denton's funeral in 1848. It has also been written that he baptized both of Clinton County's governors, Thomas Bramlette and Preston Leslie, whose brother, Ellison, was my third great-grandfather. The minutes state that more than once revivals lasting several days broke out while he was preaching.

Bro. Cooper not only served God at Clear Fork. His labors as a gospel messenger also spread to many other churches mostly within the Stockton's Valley and South Concord associations. Churches like Beaver Creek (his home church), Seventy Six,Cumberland City, New Hope, Bethel, Friendship, Mt. Pisgah, Taylor's Grove, Canada's Creek, Parnell, Mt. Pleasant, Charity and Steubenville, and his work was abundantly fruitful. It has been said he baptized more than 2,000 people during his 73-year ministry, performed marriage ceremonies for some 1,300 couples and led about that same number of funerals. He also served one year as Missionary in Texas. In his obituary, R.C. Kimble noted that for almost three quar­ters of a century William Cooper was a "champion of truth against every attack of Satan's hosts."

"The Civil War"

There was a season of revival following the Civil War. In 1866, Bro. Cooper baptized some 450 converts during the month of May alone. Clear Fork's building was burned during the war, but the church continued to meet in homes and other church houses after the conflict had ended. In 1866, during the months of April, May and June, Clear Fork held both revivals and regular services at Albany First Baptist, Beech Bottom and Locust Grove churches, where William Cooper preached at all of these services and many people were saved or rededicated their lives, and were added to the church roll.

The Civil War, with its roots deeply imbedded in the hearts of both Northerners and Southerners, affected everyone. Sides were chosen and strong sentiments were formed. Fighting would have broken out in Wayne County at the onset of the war had it not been for one man, William Armstrong Cooper. On August 30,1861, with much of the county gathered around the steps of the Wayne County courthouse, he spoke for more than two hours, pleading for residents to remain peaceful. Afterwards, a white flag, a symbol of peace, was raised above the courthouse with the inscription: "Peace is the Motto of Wayne County."

"Plea For Peace"

William Cooper was a scholar, theologian, sur­veyor and orator. He was the grandson of revolutionary war veteran George Fredrick Cooper, who had allegedly been a companion of Daniel Boone. His influence reached far beyond the boundaries of Wayne County. As a powerful preacher and compassionate pastor he was unexcelled. It was written that he left a deep impression about public thinking and morality on all who listened to him. No incident reveals the powerful influence exercised over people more than his "Plea For Peace" sermon. Both sides of the conflict were ready to begin what could have led to horrible bloodshed, but they were so heavily influenced by his words that after his sermon the crowd dispersed and went home instead.

In his diary, Captain John Tuttle of Monticello described the speech as "the most interesting and best delivered speech that was ever heard." Guy Shearer wrote, "He told all those present the truth and they lis­tened. The worst did not befall local citizens during that four years of (the Civil War) conflict. The Battle of Mill Springs was brought in and there were a few minor skirmishes involving guerilla warfare, but for the most part reason ruled the minds of the people and peace ruled the day.

May the spirit of William Armstrong Cooper and the same power of God that folks felt after hearing his words in 1861 fill our hearts and be cultivated within us during these troubled times we are living in, and as we face an uncertain future.

Wanna get to Heaven I'm a tell you how
Keep that hand on the gospel plow
Just keep that hand on the plow
Hold on

Hold on, Hold on
Keep your hand on the plow and hold on
Hold on

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I Come From A Long Line Of Musicians

Anthony Bassano, a 16th century musician who is buried in the churchyard at All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the city of London, was born in Italy but later moved to England to serve in the court of Henry VIII. Five of his sons also served as musicians there, while his daughter, Lucreece, married the french-born courtier and artist, and my ancestor,  known as Nicholas Lanier, the Elder.

Nicholas, who was born in Rouen, France in 1542, served as a court musician to Henry II. After fleeing to England to escape Catholic persecution in 1561, he began serving the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

Nicholas and Elena's grandson, also named Nicholas Lanier (see photo), became the first person to hold the title of Master of the King’s Music while serving as court musician, composer, performer and groom of the chamber to King Charles I and Charles II. He was a singer who also played the flute as well as the viola.

I am descended from Nicholas Lanier, the Elder's son, Clement, my 11th great-grandfather, who served as Gentleman of the King’s Chamber to both James I and Charles I. Clement's son, and my ancestor, John Lanier, Sr., known as The Immigrant, migrated to Virginia in the late 1600's. His great, great-grandson, George Washington Lanier, later moved to the North side of Obeds Creek in Overton County, TN, then Jackson County. George's  granddaughter, Nancy Asburn, married John Speck. They are my 4th great-grandparents. I wonder if Nancy knew she descended from aristocrats who were distinguished and educated musicians for kings and queens of France and England for three generations?

Another of Clement Lanier descendants, his third great-grandson, Lloyd Addison Lanier, came up the Cumberland River from Nashville and operated a general merchandise store near Mill Springs in Wayne County. His brother-in-law, Thompson Brown, owned a twelve hundred acre farm there, which he eventually purchased. When the Battle of Mill Springs was fought, Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer used the home as his headquarters. Today, the Brown-Lanier house and grounds, which includes the mill there, are part of Mill Springs National Park.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Let's Get Together (And Do It Right)

There is too much noise in the world right now that is producing a level of adrenalin rush never before seen in my lifetime, and most likely yours. Raised blood pressures, accelerated heart rates, stressed out to the max, hypertension overload that is increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks. What are we doing?

If ever there was a moment for an awakening, it is now. It happened once before, you know, and it could happen again.

It was in the spring of 1966, when a group known as The Youngbloods signed with RCA Records. Later that year they recorded their self-titled debut album. One of the songs on it had been discovered several months earlier after singer and bass player Jesse Colin Young had gone out looking for a place to rehearse. As he entered a club in New York City, folk singer Buzzy Linhart was on stage rehearsing a song. He was filled with emotion by what he heard.

“Love is but a song we sing, fear’s the way we die, you can make the mountains ring or make the angels cry, Though the bird is on the wing and you may not know why, Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"

It was in that moment that Young had an awakening. He ran backstage and asked Linhart who had written the song. The answer was Dino Valenti, whose real name was Chet Powers. He had written the song in 1963.

“Get Together” had been so tightly arranged during The Youngbloods' rehearsals that in the studio no one with RCA dared to do anything to it. It was a pure and self-contained piece of art, whose sacred nature was apparent.

But in New York the song didn't go over very well. It wasn't until the band took it's tour to San Francisco that it's popularity began to rise. It was 1967 and the "Summer of Love."

People then actually wanted to learn to love one another. Imagine, today, a world where peace and love are the counterculture to what we have become, a place where everyone gets along. We need that awakening.

"Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

J.H. McKinley was Bozo Texino

Pleasanton City Cemetery in Atascosa County, Texas is where Clinton County, Kentucky native J.H. McKinley lies buried. Born at Cartwright on March 25, 1893, he was an early-20th-century train man who was also a railroad car graffiti artist, someone who marked up freight cars with pictures and messages in text.

For a long time the identity of Bozo Texino remained at least semi-anonymous. The mythical character McKinley created began leaving his hobo chalk-drawn graffiti/artwork on the sides of boxcars from Maine to California as early as 1919. In the photo you can see his graphic signature and the simple bust of a pipe-smoking character in a peaked hat with an infinity-shaped brim. In 1939, he told a reporter he had adorned a quarter-million or so boxcars since bringing Bozo Texino.

James Herbert McKinley worked for Missouri Pacific, first as a fireman then later as a locomotive engineer. He was known to sometimes wear a checkered shirt, a bow-tie and a derby hat with his denim railroad overalls and is remembered by his peers as one of the wildest engineers who ever worked for Missouri-Pacific.

As I mentioned, Bozo Texino's identity wasn’t exactly a secret. For more than 25 years he wrote a humor column called “Bozo Texino Sez” for Missouri-Pacific magazine and occasionally would write a piece in Albany's New Era newspaper.

"When I was a teenager," he wrote in 1953, "and used to climb the steep grade from the foot of the 76 Falls, I didn't know that some day I'd go to the top of the falls in a boat. When I used to swiim in the 7-foot swimming hole on Ind­ian Creek I didn't know that some day it would be a 77-foot swimming hole. No one could have ever made me believe that some day I'd catch a fish 100-foot above Aunt Ann Ellen Grider's chimney.

Born March 25, 1893, McKinley left Clinton County when he was barely 17 and moved to San Antonio. In 1914 he was hired to work on the San Antonio, Uvaloe and Gulf Railroad, then two years later on the IGN. Both of those railroad companies were eventually bought by Missouri-Pacific. McKinley was promoted to engineer in 1928, but it was his penchant for humor that made him well known and admired through­out that part of the country.

"I remember when very few people trusted a bank and buried their money under the hearth in front of an open fire­place or under a haystack," he wrote in 1954. "Ev­erybody trusted and loved one another and nobody would tell a lie until they started trading coon dogs."

James Herbert McKinley was the son of Charles Ellis and Rachel Neathery McKinkey. He died in Pleasanton, Texas, just outside San Antonio, on February 26, 1967. Several of his relatives live in Clinton County.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Day the Civil War Came to Albany, pt. 4, "Blessed are the Peacemakers"

It was during the late winter and early spring of 1862, as the civil war was now in full swing, that the Union and Confederate factions of the Upper Cumberland attempted to reach a peaceful compromise in order to prevent the raids that were occuring in Fentress and Overton counties in Tennessee, and Clinton County in Kentucky.

Murder, theft and arson had become commonplace during the absence of regular soldiers who had gone off to fight in the war. It was decided that a peace conference should be held in hopes a solution might be reached that would end the senseless acts of guerilla warfare. It was agreed the meeting would be held at Monroe in Overton County.

The Northern side was represented by men from Fentress and Clinton counties. The Southern side was represented by men from Overton County. Since confederate guerilla Champ Ferguson was committing the largest number of atrocities, he was invited to the conference to represent the Confederate interests of Clinton County. It would prove to be a big mistake.

Even though the parties agreed to stop the raids into adjoining counties, on the way back to Clinton County, Ferguson and his men killed four Overton County men. Before the wars' end, most of the Union men who had participated in the peace conference were killed, while others were pursued but only terrorized. Those killed were James Zachary, Thomas Wood, William Johnson, Robert Martin, Joseph Stover, Louis Pierce, Eli Hatfield, Parson Joseph Dalton, John McDonald and a Mr. Taylor. Another was my third great-grandfather, Elisha Koger.

Elisha had been a member of the home guard in Clinton County. On the morning of Sunday, June 1, 1862, just as the sun was starting to rise, he rose from his bed and headed out to the spring that ran beside his home at Oak Grove, with his wife, Nancy, by his side. Shots rang out as a band of men appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Nancy screamed for him to run, but it was too late as Champ Ferguson overtook him and shot him. Elisha threw up his arms and said something, but Nancy couldn't make out his words because the couple's children were screaming.

As shots continued to ring out, he ran toward a fence some fifty yards away. He reached the fence and tried to cross it, but Ferguson and nine other men rode up to him and continued shooting. By the time Nancy reached the fence, the couple's 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, was holding her daddy in her arms, covered in his blood. Elisha gasped once, but never spoke. He had been shot more than 30 times. Nancy knelt beside her dead husband's body as Ferguson and his outlaw gang ransacked the Koger home.

Seven months earlier, on Nov. 1, 1861, Ferguson had killed Nancy Koger's brother, William Frogge, as his wife Esther, also watched in horror.

On October 20, 1865, Ferguson was hanged for the brutal murder of 53 people. Nancy and Esther were two of those who testified against him at his trial.

The historical significance of the peace conference rests upon the premise of what might have been, a story of reasonable men who searched for solace during unreasonable times.

For the record, I had family members on both sides of the Civil War conflict who were both persecuted and harmed over what they believed in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Tale From Caney Gap, KY

There once was a wealthy farmer who lived at Caney Gap in Clinton County and his name was Bill Burchett. He always had something to sell. He didn't count his money, he measured it in a cedar water bucket that held a peck. When he'd get this bucket four or five times full he'd have a bushel. He also had an earthen crock to measure gold that held $3,000 worth when it was full. Sid Burchett, an old African-American who was born a slave, always lived with Bill or some of his children. Sid couldn't read or write and he stuttered, but when he finally got the words out of his mouth they were words of wisdom. Sid could lean on a hoe handle in a cornfield and smell the atmosphere and tell within thirty minutes when it was going to rain. No deal or business transaction was ever made without consulting Sid, and his decision about anything was seldom wrong. If he told them to sell a hog and they didn't sell it, it would die of the cholera the next week. - J. H. McKinley, The New Era, April 12, 1951

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Hymns of Hope: Faith is the Victory!

Rev. John H. Yates was born in Batavia, New York on Nov. 31, 1837. He was licensed as a Methodist preacher after high school, but instead was forced to get a job to help maintain his aged parents. His father had been a shoemaker, so John's first job was in a shoe store. For thirty years he worked at different retail jobs, including a hardware store and a department store, eventually becoming the editor of the local newspaper.

All through his years of working Yates still managed to preach here and there, sharing his faith in Jesus Christ. Before his death in 1900, he switched from a Methodist to a Free Will Baptist and in 1897 began pastoring at a church near Batavia.

He also had another way of serving the Lord. His mother had been a school teacher who loved poetry and literature, and it was at her beckoning that Yates became a writer of poetry and songs. It wasn't long before hymns he had written were being sung all over the land.

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” - 1 John 5:4

John's faith was severely tested when his wife and two sons all died within the space of one week from an outbreak of diphtheria. He eventually remarried and kept going, giving living illustration that our faith in the promises of God and in our Lord Jesus gives us overcoming victory.

His success as a hymn writer led the famous singer and musician, Ira D. Sankey, to ask Yates to write hymns for him. Perhaps the deaths of his wife and children, and the testing of his faith, is what led him to write his most famous hymn, "Faith is the Victory."

Encamped along the hills of light
Ye Christian soldiers rise
  And press the battle ere the night
  Shall veil the glowing skies
Against the foe in vales below
  Let all our strength be hurled
Faith is the victory we know
That overcomes the world

Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
Oh glorious victory
That overcomes the world

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Day Aeronauts Fell From the Sky in Kentucky

Metcalfe County, Kentucky has been known for a lot of different things over the years: The Kentucky Headhunters, Black Stone Cherry, UK basketball star J.P. Blevins and the natural gas pipeline explosion at Beaumont in 1985, but in 1910 it was known as the place where a hot air balloon fell from the sky.

On May 8, 1910, Viking, said to be the largest hot air balloon in the world with a gas capacity of 85,000 cubic feet, left Quincey, Illinois on a journey to set a long-distance record. The balloon, piloted by A. Holland Forbes of New York, President of Forbes Publishing Company, sailed over Missouri, Indiana and then Kentucky. At 16,000 feet they encountered a thunderstorm which caused their virtually uncontrollable aircraft to shoot up to an altitude of 20,600 feet, which was a new altitude record.

As the balloon approached Tennessee, Forbes and his crewman, J. C. Yates, also of New York, almost passed out from the effects of the high altitude. Forbes later said the air pressure at that moment was no more than four pounds. The trauma caused both men to lose their ability to function properly. Forbes panicked and pulled the rip cord too hard in a rush to slow his descent. The two men were forced to discard all ballast and provisions to check their descent when suddenly, at a distance of almost 500 feet above ground, the rip cord tore Forbes' new balloon open and, like a piece of lead, it dropped straight to the ground in the Center community in Metcalfe County. Residents there arrived to find both men unconscious and seriously injured, Yates' injuries were more severe. The two men might have been killed had it not been for a pneumatic mattress that was laying on the basket floor. When they began their journey in Illinois, thirty-three bags of sand were onboard the Viking. There was only one left when it hit ground.

Forbes was internationally known as a balloonist. There was not another balloonist in the United States, and probably in the world, who had more enthusiasm about the sport than he did. He had made so many trips skyward that newspapers and magazines dubbed him the "Cowboy of the Air." A year earlier he won a trophy for the longest flight made in the United States during the year after his balloon, The New York, covered 731 miles in 19 1/4 hours. The accident in Metcalfe County wasn't his first narrow escape. At the Berlin races in 1908, his balloon, The Conqueror, caught fire and fell rapidly. Fortunately, the torn bag formed a sort of parachute that enabled Forbes to escape serious injury.

After the ordeal in Metcalfe County, Forbes continued to be an active member of the Aero Club of America, retaining his keen interest in all forms of aviation until his death on Dec. 23, 1927.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Hymns of Hope: How Long Has It Been?

In Southern Gospel music circles, songwriter Mosie Lister was a legend. His best known songs include “Where No One Stands Alone,” “Till the Storm Passes By,” “Then I Met the Master” and “How Long Has It Been?” Born into a musical family in Georgia, at an early age it appeared he was tone-deaf. Although he gradually learned to distinguish pitches, he wanted to do more than that...he wanted to write songs.

He came to fame as he began to work with southern gospel quartets; singing, arranging, writing and producing. One day he thinking about how people can drift away from the Lord. "Once upon a time, they had told God they loved Him, but they hadn’t given Him much thought in recent years," he said. Sound familiar? All of a sudden the lyrics came and he started writing as fast as he could. In ten minutes he had written "How Long Has it Been?"

"How long has it been since you talked with the Lord
and told him your hearts hidden secrets
How long since you prayed, how long since you stayed
on your knees’till the light shone through

How long has it been since your mind felt at ease
How long since your heart knew no burden
Can you call him your friend, how long has it been
since you knew that he cared for you"

Within five years, more than a million sheet music copies had been sold. Jimmy Davis was the first to release the song on record in 1956. The Blackwood Brothers released it later that same year. Jim Reeves followed in 1959, Jimmy Dean in 1960, The Statesman Quartet in 1964 and The Cathedral Quartet in 1966. Mosie said he stopped counting in the 600's.

Albert Brumley, who wrote “I’ll Fly Away,” once declared “How Long Has It Been” to be greatest gospel song ever written. When asked, “What about your song?” he replied, “It’s not in the same class.” Billy Graham’s soloist, George Beverly Shea, often closed his concerts by singing this song.

"How long has it been since you knelt by your bed
and prayed to the Lord up in Heaven
How long since you knew that He’d answer you
and would keep you the long night through

How long has it been since you woke with the dawn
and felt this day is worth living
Can you call Him your friend, How long has it been
since you knew that He cared for you"

My favorite recording of this song has to be the version Jimmy Dean recorded in 1960 and released on his album "Hymns" (Columbia Records).

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Hymns of Hope: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Helen Lemmel, the daughter of a Methodist minister, was born in 1863 in Wardle, England. Her family migrated to America when she was 12, first to Mississippi then to Wisconsin. A gifted singer, she traveled and sang on the Chautauqua circuit, eventually, becoming a vocal music teacher at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Among her works was a hymnal used by evangelist Billy Sunday for over a decade. She and a women’s choral group she directed were part of his evangelistic crusades at the peak of his career. Lemmel died in Seattle, Washington in 1961.

Originally known as "The Heavenly Vision," "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" (the first line of the chorus) was inspired by a missionary's tract Lemmel had read. First published as a pamphlet in England in 1918, she included it in a collection of hymns, called "Glad Songs," in 1922, and then in an American collection, entitled "Gospel Truth in Song," in 1924. Today the hymn, especially the chorus, is widely known and has become a standard reprinted in many hymnals.

O soul, are you weary and troubled
No light in the darkness you see
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

His Word shall not fail you
He promised
Believe Him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying
His perfect salvation to tell

Alvin Bertram Preached for 54 years

On July 21, 1926 the Wayne County Outlook wrote, "Bro. Alvin Bertram of Albany died at the home of his son, Senator Elza Bertram, on North Main Street in Monticello last Wednesday afternoon after a short illness. Bro. Bertram had stopped by his sons home on his way to visit his daughter, Lena Denney, in Spiceland, Indiana, but became sick and only lived a few days. His children and their families accompanied the body back to Albany for his funeral and burial."

His tombstone at Albany Cemetery says he was a Baptist preacher for 54 years. "Few assocations can put forth a more faithful record than the one made by Bro. Bertram," wrote the newspaper. He had been a member of the Stockton Valley Assocation for fifty-seven years and had just recently been re-elected moderator for the twenty-sixth time.

Bro. Bertram was the fourth official pastor in 123 years at Clear Fork Baptist Church. Isaac Denton, the first pastor, served 46 years, 1802 to 1848, Daniel Hancock and James Abston then shared the pulpit until 1852, when Abston agreed to be the full-time pastor for the next two years. Isaac Denton's son, Joseph, served as pastor church for the next 32 years, from 1854 until 1886.

Following his death, Bro. Bertram, who had been ordained to preach in 1872, was elected Pastor and served from November 1887 until April 1889. He was elected pastor again in November of 1889 and this time remained in the pulpit for the next 36 years, preaching his last regular sermon on July 24, 1924. Upon his death, he had served as pastor for a little over thirty eight years.

Preaching the gospel ran in the Bertram family. Alvin's grandfather, William, was a Baptist preacher. So was Alvin's father, Jonathan. Alvin did more than preach. From 1893 to 1902 he served in the Kentucky legislature as State Representative of Clinton and Wayne counties.

Alvin was born at Sunnybrook in Wayne County on Aug. 22, 1846. He married Rosa Young of Clinton County in 1864 and lived in Albany the remainder of his life. Rosa died in 1919. Besides his daughter in Indiana, he was survived by five sons, Printis of Albany, William of Cartwright and Elza, Oscar and Joe, all of Monticello.

Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Printis also became a preacher. As a matter of fact, he served as Clear Fork's tenth pastor, from May 1932 to May 1933. Elza and Oscar practiced law in Albany for nearly 25 years as Bertram & Bertram before moving the practice to Monticello. Elza was elected to the Kentucky State Senate in 1910, and in 1933 became a Judge with the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Rainbow Valley Will Never Be The Same

Lester Moran & his Cadillac Cowboys spent their entire career performing each and every Saturday night at the Johnny Mack Brown High School there at Rainbow Valley. That's the same dance that use to be held in the Volunteer Fire Hall before it burnt down.

"The Old Roadhog," along with Red and Wesley, the two young country singers, and ol' Wichita, Roadhogs right hand man, kept a strain of country music alive in the valley long after most people thought it had died, or should have died.

We thought the invention of the guitar tuner might kill off Lester's style of music, but unfortunately, I mean fortunately, tuners never made it into the culturally isolated Rainbow Valley, and when his record company tried to buy him one he rejected it, saying only "I never did like seafood much."

For years, Lester and the boys did a radio show on WEAK radio, where they spent fifteen minutes playing good ol' country music. They also did a lot of pickin' and grinnin' for some of their good friends over in Hogan County at Moose Lodge #13.

Ain't nobody gonna miss Old Roadhog more than his good friend Burford down at Burford's Barber Shop, that's B-u-r-f-o-r-d, and also Ernie at Ernie's Egg Mart, where you can always get cracked eggs half price at 8pm. That was a yoke!

We asked Old Roadhog of he'd like to say something and after he'd pulled his self together he said, "It is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.” So long until next time Old Roadhog, Lester Moran. Take it away Wichita!

RIP Harold Reid of the Statler Brothers. The class of '57 had its dreams. You changed the world and made it a better place to live.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Influential Albums: Let it Be

"Let It Be" was the twelfth and final studio album by the Beatles. It was released on May 8, 1970. I fell in love with the title track the moment I first heard it and, even though I was only nine years old, I desired to learn how to play the title track on the piano. After I worked it up I talked two of my classmates, who lived on the same street, into singing it in Margaret Cook's music class at school.

The next day, I uncharacteristically raised my hand and asked if we could do the song. I don't remember ever going out on a limb like that again, hahaha. She surely had to be curious about my forthrightness because, normally in that classroom I was happy with playing the sticks or, if I was lucky enough to be chosen, shake the tambourine. I didn't have any sort of music or chord arrangement written down in front of me. It strictly by ear. The only thing we did have were the lyrics, which I had written on a piece of paper that had been folded into a small square and stuffed inside my pants pocket.

We were midway through the second verse when I caught a glimpse of this cute little girl, with long black hair in pigtails, walking toward us. I thought she was coming to help my buddies sing, but instead she stopped in front of the piano and leaned over to watch me play. It was at that very moment that I realized what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I had discovered a way to pick up girls. Later, people actually started giving me money to play. That really threw me for a loop, but I went along with it.

"When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness
she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be"

Influential Albums: Creedence Clearwater Revival

The late 60's...what a time to be growing up and loving music. It grew a whole lot sweeter when Creedence Clearwater Revival started releasing those great songs. CCR really hit it big in 1969 by releasing three albums that swept everyone off their feet, including me. "Born on the Bayou," "Green River" and "Willie and the Poor Boys." "Cosmos Factory," their biggest album release prior to the Chronicles 1 and Chronicles 2 sets, was released in 1970.

It was brand new music then, and it was really, really good stuff. My favorites songs were "Bad Moon Rising," "Lodi" and "Proud Mary." I have a recording of my brother, Ronnie, and I jamming to "Proud Mary." He is singing and playing drums and I am playing piano and singing the repeat line on the word, "Rollin'." He is 8 and I am 11.

In two years, CCR gave us twelve of their biggest songs: "Bad Moon Rising," "Lodi" and "Proud Mary," along with "Green River," "Down on the Corner." "Have You Ever Seen The Rain," "Heard it Through the Grapevine," "Run Through the Jungle," "Up Around the Bend," "Travelin' Man," "Long as I Can See the Light" and "Lookin' Out My Back Door." "Suzie Q" had already been released in 1968.

Fact: The music of Creedence Clearwater Revival has never left radio.

"Tambourines and elephants are playin' in the band
Won't you take a ride on the flyin' spoon, Doo, doo, doo
Wond'rous apparition provided by magician
Doo, doo, doo lookin' out my back door"

Listen to "Cosmos Factory"(40th Anniversary Edition)

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Hymns of Hope: There is a Redeemer

(Photo by Kelly Latham)

I am always fascinated by the stories behind the writing of hymns, especially the great old ones. Although it sounds old, "There Is a Redeemer" is a praise and worship song written by Melody Green in 1977 and popularized by her husband, contemporary Christian musician Keith Green, on his 1982 album, "Songs for the Shepherd," the last album to be released before a plane crash on July 28, 1982 claimed the lives of Keith, 28, and two of his children, ages 2 and 3. Nine others were also onboard and perished. They were visiting church planters, John and Dede Smalley and their six children. The Robertson STOL-modified Cessna 414 leased by Last Days Ministries crashed after takeoff from a private airstrip located on the LDM property. Melody was left with a one year old and expecting their fourth child at the time of the accident. The final verse was added by Keith. The song appears in numerous hymnals and has been described as a classic. We sing it quite often at my church. Like "How Deep The Father's Love For Us," this is another one of those hymns that sounds old, bit it isn't. The lyrics and the melody are beautiful.

There is a redeemer
Jesus, God's own son
Precious lamb of God, Messiah
Holy one

Thank you oh my father
For giving us your son
And leaving your spirit
'til the work on earth is done

Jesus my redeemer
Name above all names
Precious lamb of God, Messiah
Oh, for sinners slain

When I stand in glory
I will see his face
And there I'll serve my king forever
In that holy place

Today, Melody Green operates Last Days Ministries online where all of her husband's writings are free and his music can be found. She also maintains the Keith Green Facebook page to honor Keith.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Eb Dawson has gone to live in Greener Acres

Tom Lester, a devoted evangelist who starred as friendly farmhand Eb Dawson on the 1960's series “Green Acres,” died today in the Nashville due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 81.

The Jackson, Mississippi and raised on his grandfather’s farm. He had big dreams of becoming an actor in Hollywood, but few people from his rural community believed he would find success, because he was too tall, too skinny, too ugly, had a Southern accent, and looked nothing like Rock Hudson.

How did a young man from Mississippi without a credit to his name accomplish this feat, co-starring alongside the prolific Eddie Albert and the showstopper Eva Gabor? It happened by chance. After being told he looked nothing like Rock Hudson, he read an interview with Don Knotts who was asked how he got into movies, because he didn’t look anything at all like Rock Hudson. His reply was "I figured everybody in Hollywood was good-looking and had a good physique. I figured they needed somebody a little bit different."

So, with that being said, he moved to Hollywood believing the Lord was leading him to become an actor. He found a job and along the way, met a drama coach who helped him get cast in plays that put him onstage with Linda Kaye, the daughter of Paul Henning, creator of “Petticoat Junction." One of the things Henning liked about Tom was, get this - his 'accent.'

"Golly, Mr. Douglas!"

Reportedly, Lester beat out 400 other actors for the role of Eb because he knew how to milk a cow. His character wasn’t supposed to be a major part in the show, however, Lester’s performances in early episodes were so popular among audiences that he quickly became a regular on the show that ran from 1965 to 1971.

Lester grew up simple knowing a simpler way of life and it was no different for him in Hollywood. Upon his arrival there, he began attending the Beverly Hills Baptist Church. Even at the heighth of his TV show fame he continued to live in a rented apartment above a garage in the San Fernando Valley. After the show ended, he moved back to Mississippi, where he bought a large timber farm that he named "Green Acres." He won Mississippi’s “Wildlife Farmer of the Year” award in 1997. He also traveled the country sharing his Christian faith at church gatherings and youth rallies and his life was a testimony to all who knew him.

Eb Dawson: Morning! Breakfast ready?
Lisa Douglas: Yes.
Eb Dawson: Well, let's have the hotcakes and get it over with.
Lisa Douglas: We're not having any hotscakes this morning.
Oliver Douglas: No hotcakes?
Lisa Douglas: I've made something different.
Oliver Douglas: Hey, wonderful!
Eb Dawson: Let's not go off half-cocked till we get a look at it.
Oliver Douglas: Knock it off, anything's better than the hotcakes.
Lisa Douglas: Here we are. [Holds up what looks like a long, lumpy pastry on a baking sheet]
Eb Dawson: Any hotcakes left over from yesterday?
Lisa Douglas: You don't like it?
Eb Dawson: I don't know. What is it?
Lisa Douglas: Well what does it look like?
Oliver Douglas: It looks like a boa constrictor with lumps.
Lisa Douglas: That's the last time I ever cook you a spanish omelette.

Lester was the last surviving regular cast member of Green Acres.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Influential Albums: Please Please Me

I don't remember exactly how old I was when I first started paying attention to the harmony vocal parts in songs. I do recall at church being in the pew behind Kate Owens, listening to her sing harmony and thinking I’d like to do that. At home, I would put a Beatles album on the portable turntable and listen to their clean harmonies which were so easy to pick out. The "Please, Please Me" album by the Beatles was full of songs with great harmonies. I remember listening to them, then going to the piano and picking out the different parts in a chord and doing it all the way up the scale. I suppose I was learning to sing and play the piano at the same time. Soon, unbeknownst to her, I was in the pew behind Kate Owens, singing harmony to her harmony. I am certainly not a lead vocalist (I used to do it only to give the lead singer a chance to catch his or her breath), but I love singing harmony.

Hymns of Hope: If My People

2 Chronicles 7:14 is one of my favorite bible verses. I think we can all agree that things in America have been pretty crazy for quite some time now. Some say the COVID-19 crisis is our cue to fix it. Perhaps that's true. One thing is for sure, when all of this is over, if we go back to the way things were, we will not have learned anything. This bible verse/song is a great way to begin to set things right. My prayer is that we will follow its directions and allow it to work in our hearts and in our lives, and ultimately in our land. May God bless you.

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14

Friday, April 17, 2020

Hymns of Hope: Be Still My Soul

The very powerful words to the hymn, "Be Still My Soul," were written in 1752 and translated into English in 1855. The first verse is perfect for this trying time we are in.

"Be still, my soul, the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to your God to order and provide. In ev'ry change, he faithful will remain. Be still, my soul, your best, your heav'nly friend, through thorny ways leads to a joyful end."

The verse tells us that God is over all creation, but instead of using His sovereign power to destroy us, He sustains our lives. Instead of crushing us as we deserve, He is merciful. He is patient. He is good.

'Be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know His voice.' I love that line in verse two. It means don't let anything shake you. God is in control.

"Be still, my soul, your God will undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake. All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below."

Verse three offers the assurance that God loves us. We are His children and in the midst of troubled times, 'we shall know His love.'

"Be still, my soul, when dearest friends depart and all is darkened in the vale of tears. Then shall you better know His love, His heart who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears. Be still, my soul, your Jesus can repay from his own fullness all he takes away."

Verse four is about God's promise of what lies ahead if you are saved. That, one day, grief, disappointment and fear will be gone. Hallelujah!

"Be still, my soul, the hour is hast'ning on when we shall be forever with the Lord. When disappointment, grief and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored. Be still, my soul, when change and tears are past, all safe and blessed, we shall meet at last."

The writer of the hymn was Ka­tha­ri­na A. von Schle­gel, who lived in the German city of Cothen, where Johann Sebastian Bach lived for a short time. She wrote a number of hymns that combines biblical doctrine with living a vigorous Christian life. "Stille meine Wille," or “Be Still My Soul,” gives us assurance that, in the midst of the storm, our souls are secure and we can rest easy because God is in control.

Exultate Singers , a choir based in Bristol, UK that was founded by conductor and composer David Ogden, performs a beautiful version of “Be Still My Soul.”

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Hymns of Hope: "How Deep the Father's Love For Us"

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
- Romans 8:38-39

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

In today’s worship writing it is a rare and wonderful thing to find a hymn or even a Christian song filled with BOTH theological depth and poetic expression than "How Deep the Father's Love For Us," written by Stuart Townend, an English Christian worship leader and writer of hymns and contemporary worship music.

He said, "I’d been meditating on the cross, and in particular what it cost the Father to give up his beloved Son to a torturous death on a cross. And what was my part in it? Not only was it my sin that put him there, but if I’d lived at that time, it would probably have been me in that crowd, shouting with everyone else ‘crucify him.’ It just makes his sacrifice all the more personal, all the more amazing, and all the more humbling."

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2020

On a Hill Far Away Stood an Old Rugged Cross

Evangelist George Bennard wrote the first verse to "The Old Rugged Cross" after being heckled by several youth at a revival meeting in Albion, Michigan in the fall of 1912. Troubled by their disregard for the gospel, he was reflecting on the work of Christ on the cross when he wrote,

"On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame."

He finished the hymn during a revival in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin that began in late December that year. The song was popularized in Billy Sunday's evangelistic campaigns by singers Homer Rodeheaver and Virginia Asher. They were the first to record it in 1921.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

O that old rugged cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary

In that old rugged cross stained with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me

To that old rugged cross I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then he'll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I'll share

Now, more than ever, we need to cling to the cross. We haven't been living in the world the Lord intended for us to live in. So, now that He has gotten our attention, we need to change. Pray for change, pray for each other. Instead of putting down our leaders, pray for them, and yes, even the President. After this pandemic is over, if we go back to the way things were we will have lost the lesson. We must rise up and do better. I can't think of a better place to start than by clinging to the old rugged cross.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Nobly The Fell While Fighting for Liberty

Before the Korean Conflict there had been 39 military funerals in Clinton County, Ky for WWII veterans. The first one held here for a Korean Conflict casualty was held on Dec. 2, 1951 when Luther Craig was laid to rest at Peolia Cemetery. Five Clinton County soldiers were killed in action during the Korean Conflict. Pvt. Craig, at 20-years-old, was the second youngest casualty. He had served in the Army with Co. G, 7th Calvary, 1st Division and was killed in action on June 8, 1951. Luther was the son of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Craig.

Pvt. Earl Bradley Stewart, who had served in the Army was killed in action on March 15, 1951. He was the son of Prentice and Nellie Sidwell Stewart and was 22 years of age. Earl is buried at Cartwright Cemetery.

Cpl. Herbert E. Guffey was another 22-year-old was killed in action during the Korean Conflict, or war, which J.E. Morrison said it was. Cpl. Guffey, who was the son of Porter and Ethel Vickery, served in the Army with the 72nd Medium Tank BN, 2nd Infantry. He was killed on Dec. 28, 1951 and is buried at Piercey Cemetery.

Pvt. Willie Kenneth Wright was also 22-years-old when he was killed in action on June 7, 1952. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Columbus Wright, he was with the Army's 180th Regiment, 45th Infantry. He is buried at Five Springs Cemetery.

By now, most of you have heard about Pvt. Joe Stanton Elmore, the 20-year-old son of Ambrose and Bertha York Elmore, was the youngest of the Clinton County soldiers to die in battle in Korea. He was killed in action on Dec. 2, 1950, alth6 his remains could not be located. He was officially presumed dead on Dec. 31, 1953, but that wasn't the end of it. In 1995, his sisters, Mary and Lola, submitted their DNA to the Korean War Missing DNA Project and it worked. Their brother was accounted for on July 3, 2018. His remains were brought back home to Clinton County on Aug. 15th, sixty-eight years after he was killed in action. Joe Elmore served in the Army with Co. A of the 32nd Infantry, 7th Division. He is buried at Story Cemetery.

Whenever I think of our war dead, I find myself thinking about this old song written over a hundred years ago and made famous during our time, first by Doc Watson, then by Bob Dylan. The name of it is "Lone Pilgrim."

I came to the place where the lone pilgrim lay
and patiently stood by his tomb
When in a low whisper I heard something say
How sweetly I sleep here alone

The tempest may howl and the loud thunder roar
And gathering storms may arise
But calm is my feeling at rest is my soul
The tears are all wiped from my eyes

The call of my master compelled me from home
No kindred or relative nigh
I met the contagion and sank to the tomb
My soul flew to mansions on high

Go tell my companion and children most dear
To weep not for me now I'm gone
The same hand that led me through seas most severe
Has kindly assisted me home

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

J.E. Morrison was Clinton County, Ky's Most-Decorated Korean War Soldier

"A Clinton County, Kentucky warrior, breaded and grimy, is resting today, back from the rugged fighting on mountainous Heartbreak Ridge in Korea," wrote Robert Schakne, Korean War Correspondent for WLW Radio in Cincinnati on Oct. 4, 1951. "The soldier is James E. Morrison of Seminary, Kentucky. He is enjoying some well-earned rest, along with a hot shower and hot food."

The writer got it right. James Earl Morrison was a warrior. He accepted the challenge of leading his unit from Co. C of the 23rd Infantry, 2nd Division, when no one else there on Heartbreak Ridge would. And, in doing so, he displayed exceptional valor on more than one occasion, rising to the rank of Master Sargeant.

While you may prefer to call it by it's formal name, Korean Conflict, Mr. Morrison preferred to call it a war.

On Sept. 2, 1951, while running across a field during an enemy attack on Heartbreak Ridge, he picked up a wounded soldier, slung him across his back and ran as fast as he could toward a first aid station. Along the way, they were hit by a grenade, which severely injured J.E.'s leg. It was his ticket home from a war where not much hope for survival could be seen. But J.E. refused to leave his troops behind and, with unfathomable valor I can't begin to comprehend, led his men through violent enemy fire, while being completely surrounded, until the Marines were able to break through one of the lines and rescue them two weeks later.

As the years went by, J.E. rarely spoke of the war. Most people who knew him were not aware of his heroism until the remains of Pvt. Joe Elmore were brought back home a couple of years ago, 68 years after he had been declared MIA, and J.E. began to talk about his tour of duty in North Korea. Many of you probably saw the photo of him at Pvt. Elmore's casket, standing at attention, saluting. His son David got him the cap you see in the photo. He was so proud of it.

Last year, when artist Norma Anderson unveiled her portrait of him, someone remarked what a great honor it was for him. As he began to reply, his voice became weakened with emotion. Pointing at the portrait he said, "I didn't do what I did for that."

After he fell and broke his hip in the latter part of January, the doctors and hospital staff were amazed with his grit and determination as he fought his way back during rehabilitation. But, it made sense to me. He was, after all, a warrior and the path of the Warrior is lifelong, and the mastery of it is often simply staying on the path, and that he did.

J.E. Morrison died last night at the age of 91. Our warrior is fully at rest now. Although his sun has set, its light shall linger round us yet, Bright, Radiant, Blest.

He was my friend.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Hymns of Hope: Because He Lives

One of the most famous Christian songs of our time is "Because He Lives," but do you know the story behind the writing of it? In the late 1960's, while expecting their third child, Bill and Gloria Gaither were going through a rather traumatic time in their lives. Bill was recovering from a bout with mononucleosis. It was a special period of anxiety and mental anguish for Gloria. The thought of bringing another child into this world, with all of the "craziness," was taking its toll on her.

On New Year's Eve, she was sitting in their living room, in agony and fear. The educational system was being infiltrated with the God is dead idea, while drug abuse and racial tensions were increasing. Then suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, she was filled with a gentle, calming peace. It was as if her heavenly Father, like an attentive mother bending over her baby, saw his child and came to her rescue. The panic gave way to calmness and an assurance that only the Lord can impart. She was assured that the future would be just fine, left in God's hands.

Shortly after the baby was born, both Bill and Gloria remembered that the power of the blessed Holy Spirit seemed to come to their aid. Christ's resurrection, in all of its power and affirmation in their lives, revitalized their thinking. To Gloria, it was life conquering death in their daily activities. Joy once again dominated the fearful circumstances of the day.

Those events gave rise to one of the most famous Christian songs of our time, "Because He Lives."

(Written by Lyndsay Terry, St. Augustine Record, 2015)

God sent His Son
They called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives

And then one day I'll cross that river
I'll fight life's final war with pain
And then as death gives way to vict'ry
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know he lives

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Hymns of Hope: Without Him

Mylon LeFevre was just 17 years old and in the Army in 1963 when he wrote "Without Him" in just 20 minutes. Stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, one weekend he hitchhiked over 600 miles to join his family group, the LeFevres, who were performing at a gospel convention in Memphis. Mylon sung this song onstage, not knowing that Elvis Presley was in the audience. Elvis eventually recorded the song on May 27, 1966 for his album, "How Great Thou Art," which was certified three-times Platinum by the Recording Industry of American Artists in October of 2010. Within a year of Elvis' recording of "Without Him," over a hundred other artists recorded it and other songs Mylon had written. Since 1967, the song has been included in all major hymnals.

Without Him I could do nothing
Without Him I'd surely fail
Without Him I would be drifting
Like a ship without a sail

Jesus, oh Jesus
Do you know Him today
Please don't turn Him away
Oh Jesus, oh Jesus
Without Him how lost I would be

Without Him I would be dying
Without Him I'd be enslaved
Without Him life would be worthless
But with Jesus thank God I'm saved

Friday, April 3, 2020

Bill Withers was Essential

The word 'essential' is playing an important role in things right now. Most pop and soul music lovers who have been around since the early 70's would agree with me when I say the word 'essential' applied to Bill Withers' songs.

Bill Withers is one of my favorite singers and songwriters ever. I was always spellbound by his songs. Each tune had a way of speaking to me. He wrote about love and family, of social issues, and about hard times. But, his songs also contained lots of positive vibes. He was extremely soulful, and I liked that about him. “I’m not a virtuoso," he said, "but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia."

Bill Withers was a factory worker making toilet seats for 747's when he wrote "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone." Instead of a third verse he repeated the phrase "I know" twenty-six times. My first thought on hearing it was "what in the world?" but whatever he did in his songs, and however he'd do it, always worked.

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain and we all have sorrow. But, if we are wise we know that there's always a tomorrow, a better day coming. Those words (with some of my own mixed in) made up the first verse to one of the greatest songs ever written.

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long 'til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean

Lean On Me” is a simple song. It is a love song, but by no means is it a standard love song. It’s a pledge of friendship and support through bad times. Getting those words across to people was the most important part of the song. Like, "Hey friend, if you need anything I just want you to know I am here for you." Someone said the song was a vision of how things are supposed to work.

Life has its difficult moments. Sometimes, it is hard to go it alone. Sometimes it helps to have someone or others to lean on, figuratively speaking right now, of course. Of all the hits Bill Withers had during his career, “Lean On Me” was his only #1 hit, but oh what a song, and what words! "Lean on me when you're not strong and I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on." Simply profound.

Bill's first hit record was in 1972. He retired from releasing records and playing live a short fifteen years later. Yet, he lived happily. That's really all that mattered.

Bill Withers died from heart complications today. He was 81. He gave us joy and comfort, and inspiration, when we needed those things most.

"The Essential Bill Withers" is a 34-track anthology released in 2013 that features all of his notable singles, along with other highlights from his albums on the Sussex and Columbia labels from 1971 through 1985.

I highly recommend it.

Click the link to listen to "Lean on Me"

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...