Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Peg McKamey Bean Made it by God's Amazing Grace

Peg McKamey Bean went home to be with the Lord this morning (Tuesday). On Dec. 11th, the family said she had been admitted to the hospital with a stroke. (She underwent triple bypass surgery six years ago tomorrow, Wednesday).

Peg was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall Of Fame in 2016. "Known for her spirited style on stage, you knew when Peg took the stage with her white hanky that God was going to be honored,” said SGMA President, Arthur Rice.

The group was originally formed as a trio of sisters: Dora, Peg, and Carol McKamey, in 1954 in Clinton, Tennessee. Their father was a preacher. The group went on to become one of the most popular gospel groups ever. In 2018, they announced that they would end full-time touring in November of 2019. In 2021, Peg and her husband, Reuben's daughter, Connie Fortner, her husband, Roger, and their son, Eli, began performing as McKamey Legacy.

The McKamey's signature song, at least for Peg, was "God On The Mountain” written by Southern Gospel Song Hall of Fame member Tracy Dartt in 1973. It is one of the most well-known Southern Gospel songs ever and has been recorded over 200 times, but (in my opinion) no one will ever sing it like Peg did. The McKamey's released the song on their 1988 album "Gone to Meetin' Live" (MorningStar). It became their third of sixteen #1 hits.

The McKamey's sang at Holy Temple Separate Baptist Church in Clinton County on Sunday, Nov. 20, 1983. On Sunday, Oct. 21, 1984, they performed with the Lyles on the square at the Foothills Festival. Their song, "Who Put the Tears (In the Eyes of the Lamb?)," from the "Tennessee Live!" album, had just become their first #1 hit and because of their popularity, it would be the first time ever that a huge crowd would pack the square on a Sunday afternoon at the festival. (The festival stopped having Sunday events several years ago).

"So let me sing you one more song in case I leave
I know how I made it, I made it by God's amazing grace"
- "Made it by Grace" (Joy in the Journey/2011)

Friday, December 8, 2023

Ralph Cundiff: From County Agent to KIA in WW2

Ralph Cundiff had just begun what was expected to be a bright and promising career in agriculture until World War II came along. Born in 1911 and raised in the Faubush community of Pulaski County, he graduated from Berea college with a degree in agriculture in 1938. Later that year he became the assistant county agent in Wayne County, serving until March of 1939, at which time he was appointed county agent of Clinton County. A prominent and highly respected citizen, he was a Deacon at Albany First Baptist Church and was a leading member of the Albany Lions Club. He had married Hazel Dalton, daughter of Walter Dalton.

Then came his induction into the U.S. Army in October 1942. He was assigned to Unit I Company, 330th Infantry Regiment of the 83rd Division, commanded by Major General Robert C. Macon. News correspondents nicknamed the 83rd "The Rag-Tag Circus" due to the resourcefulness of Major General Macon, who would order the supplementing of the division's transport with anything that moved with an attitude of "no questions asked."

The 83rd arrived in England on April 16, 1944 with its first divisional headquarters at Keele Hall in Staffordshire. After training in Wales, the division, took part in the Allied invasion of Normandy, landing at Omaha Beach on June 18th 1944. Nine days later they entered the hedgerow struggle south of Carentan.

"Mrs. Ralph Cundiff has been notified by the War Department of the death of her husband, SSgt. Ralph Cundiff, on July 6, 1944 in France."

He was 33.

The Allied forces' hard-won foothold on the bloody beaches of Normandy on D-Day was only the beginning of what would become a costly, foot-slogging effort to retake, field by field, town by town and house by house, all French ground the Germans had occupied since 1940. By the beginning of July the Allied invasion of Normandy, was not progressing as rapidly as anticipated.

The British Second Army had yet to secure one of its primary objectives, the pivotal crossroads city of Caen, effectively halting its advance on Paris before it began. To block the advancement the Germans deployed a staggering force of tanks and armored fighting vehicles along a tight 20-mile front. The most formidable obstruction was the countryside itself, dotted with small farms or orchards, each bordered by thick hedgerows that ranged anywhere from 4 to 15 feet in height. The Germans did not defend every hedgerow, but no one knew without stepping out into the spotlight which ones he did defend. As GIs emerged from the rows they became easy targets for German artillery and nested machine guns. The fighting continued for two days, ending with the Germans in retreat, but the battle was costly, as there were more than 15,000 American casualties.

Six other soldiers from Cundiff's company were also killed that day. He was awarded a Purple Heart, the WWII Victory Medal and a Combat Infantryman Badge. He is buried at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France. His widow later married John Dorris Jr. She died in 1975 and is buried at Goodlettsville. Ralph Cundiff's name is on two monuments, the War Veterans Monument located outside the Clinton County Courthouse and on a monument outside the Pulaski County Courthouse.

By the way, Cundiff's replacement as Clinton County Agricultural Extension Agent was D.E. Salisbury, who moved from assistant county agent in Wayne County to county agent in Clinton County at the beginning of 1943.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Honoring our Soldiers

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,403 service members and wounding 1,178 more. One of the 19 U.S. Navy ships to be completely destroyed was the battleship U.S.S. Arizona. Half of those who died in the attack were on that ship, including Storekeeper 3rd Class Clay Cooper Rector, who was the son of Wendell and Lela Cooper Rector of Albany, Kentucky.

The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

Today, we honor all 35 Clinton County, Kentucky hero soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice during the war. Their names are listed on the War Veterans Monument located in the court­house yard. I encourage you to visit the monument if you haven't.

They are Juland Archie Aaron, Gleason Asberry, Chester H. Beaty, Garvin G Brown, Herman Brown, Lambert F Burchett, Alvin Wilber Butler, James Earl Butler, Jerry Wendell Combest, Johnie R. Cooksey, John L. Cooper,Johnnie Delmer Cope, Ralph Cundiff, Marvin W. Foster, John Paul Grider Jr., Thompsie Joe Guffey, Clyde Beaty Guthrie, Hugh Edward Irwin, John E. Mason, Floyd Willard Neal, Bobbie Braxton, Bill Ray Pennycuff, Edward Frank Perdue, Norman J. Pierce, Earl C. Polston, Clay Cooper Rector, Calvin Sidwell, Rosco L. Simpson, Wendell Fred Smith, Nathan Tallent, Willie Randell Taylor, James Roger Tuggle, James Curtis Witham, Phillip A. Wright and Marvin T. York.

I spent all of this mornings hours visiting each one's page on findagrave, reading their information, looking at their faces. Not everyone came back. They are our heroes, just like all veterans are our heroes.

God bless them and (You) today and every day.

Clay Cooper Rector's chaplain was Captain William A. Maguire. He said "Don't say we buried with sor­row. Say we buried with con­viction. Our men died manfully and we will wipe out that treach­ery come what may. The spirit of these men lives on."

Monday, December 4, 2023

The Bird that sang at a Funeral

Luther York was a retired journalist from Pall Mall community of Fentress County, Tennessee who lived in the Sunnybrook community of Wayne County, Kentucky. For years, he wrote a column for the Wayne County Outlook and several other newspapers. In 1972, when the editor of the Everglades Observer in Pahokee, Florida wrote a story about birds that squatted in the trees in front of the Observer office, York responded with a story of his own.

"This is for the birds," he wrote. "There are birds and there are birds. The little brown birds that so pestered the editor in Florida are schooled In the art of creating a nuis­ance. They are experts at it. But not so for the little nuthatch," which was the subject of the story he published in the Outlook two weeks later on Nov. 30th.

In reality, the story was one that had been passed down by York's wife's great-grandfather, the reverend Johnathan Bertram. It was a story about a little bird that sang a mournful funeral dirge, or lament, over the coffin of a dearly departed.

The story began as Rev. Bertram and a few others were working across from the Pinnacle in Clinton County at a place called, believe it or not, Possum Kingdom. There's a name for you. In all the years, there was only one mention of Possum Kingdom in the Outlook. It was on March 5, 1908, when the writer of the news from Powersburg said "Jason Coleman of the Possum Kingdom has moved to W. H. Denney's farm at Denney Hollow."

Everything was going good for the men working until one of them fell ill and died within a few minutes. "Dying in a place like Possum Kingdom can present problems," Bertram said. "There's no way to get into the place nor out of it except to walk or ride a surefooted horse or mule."

So, how were they to bring the man to the cemetery at Sunnybrook? After a while it became clear that there was only one solution. They would, have to carry the man out. This meant building a casket and then carrying it up the western face of the Pin­nacle and down the eastern side.

Well, it was no easy task, but it was accomplished. When the pallbearers had crossed the Pinnacle and finally reached the cemetery, the crew that was digging the grave had not yet finished it. So, the pallbearers just deposited their burden on the ground under the spreading limbs of a beech tree and waited there until the grave was done.

Unbeknownst to them the funeral service was about to begin, because suddenly a little nuthatch bird flew down and alighted on the lowest limb, just above the casket. When someone tried to shoo him away, he burst into song. When the song was finished, the nuthatch flew away and the grave, by then, was finished. The remains of the departed were lowered to their final resting place. It was perhaps the only funeral service for a man ever conducted by a bird.

Bro. Johnathan Bertram (1823-94) was the son of William and Nancy Stinson Bertram. He preached at Pleasant Hill and Taylor's Grove. He and his wife, Pharaba, had several children. Nearly all of them lived around Sunnybrook. Luther York co-authored the "Bertram Book," a collection of annotated pictures of Bertram residents of Wayne County and their descendants. The book was first published about 1958 and re-released in 2010 by the Wayne County Kentucky History Museum. Luther's wife, Georgia, had been the associate publisher of the "Upper Cumberland Times" prior to her death in 1994. Luther died in Florida in 1978. He and Georgia are buried at Wolf River Cemetery.

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...