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Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame Class of 2014

by Kim Jones   Sep 19, 2014 16:07 PM EDT

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(Photo : The Hoppers)
Claude Hopper
Arthur Rice, the President of the Southern Gospel Music Association, has announced the inductees for the 2014 Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame. The eight newest members will forever be honored for their contributions to Southern gospel music.

The Class of 2014 consists of:

  • Eddie Crook
  • Paul Heil
  • Claude Daniel Hopper
  • Faye Ihrig Speer
  • Colbert Croft (posthumously)
  • Claris G. “Cat” Freeman (posthumously)
  • Warren Lester Roberts (posthumously)
  • Francis Jane “Fanny” Crosby Van Alstyne (posthumously)

In a press release, Rice commented on the newest class, saying, "As we have been with each inductee class, we are very excited to have another group of Southern Gospel pioneers and leaders come into the Hall of Fame membership. The Southern Gospel Music community has certainly benefited from the work and dedication of these people through the years."

The induction ceremony will take place during the National Quartet Convention which will be held September 21-27, at The LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Inductions and tributes for the deceased members of the Class of 2014 will take place during selected evening NQC performances. The Singing News Fan Awards on Thursday afternoon will host the induction honors for the living members of the 2014 class.

About the Inductees:

Eddie Crook:

Mr. Crook began his career in 1961 as the pianist for The Tennesseans. He soon began session work at the famed RCA studios on Music Row in Nashville. In 1964, He joined The Plainsmen Quartet, and toured with Governor Jimmie Davis. From 1967-1970, Crook played for The Sego Brothers & Naomi. Eddie is best known for his time as pianist for The Happy Goodman Family. In 1977, The Eddie Crook Company opened its doors and Mr. Crook went on to become one of the most recognizable producers in the industry.

Eddie Crook was inducted in to the Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame in 1998 as a part of The Happy Goodmans.

Paul Heil:

Mr. Heil got his start in Gospel music in radio while still in high school. From 1977-1979, he was a TV news director. He combined his knowledge and his love of Gospel to produce "The Gospel Greats," which debuted in February 1980 on five or six stations. Today the program is heard on over 200 stations. In 1986, he started Springside, which is one of the largest on-line catalogue sites for Southern Gospel music. A founding member of the Southern Gospel Music Guild, he served as the President for nine years. In 1991, he was honored with the Marvin Norcross Award; in 2004, he was The James D. Vaughn Impact Award winner and in 2009, he was given The Lifetime Achievement Award.

Claude Daniel Hopper:

Mr. Hopper started The Hopper Brothers in 1957 with four of his seven brothers. He married Connie Shelton, the group's piano player, in 1961. Nine years and two sons later, they became The Hopper Brothers & Connie. In 1989, after Dean Hopper married Kim Greene and she joined the group as well, they became The Hoppers and went on to sing at the inauguration of President Reagan. The group has won more than 60 awards for mixed group, vocalists, musician, and more. In September 2011, the Southern Gospel Music Guild board recognized Mr. and Mrs. Hopper’s significant contributions to the music industry with the SGMG Lifetime Achievement Honor. In 2012, The Hoppers were inducted into the GMA Hall of Fame.

Faye Ihrig Speer:

Faye Ihrig became a part of The Speer Family legacy in 1948 when she married Brock Speer. She sang with the group until their children were born and then took time off to be a full time mom. She returned to the group in the 1960's when Mom and Dad Speer's health began to decline. The group retired in 1998. Brock Speer died less than a year later. Faye continued singing, appearing in several of the Gaither Homecoming videos. She has received numerous awards both as an individual, and as a member of The Speer Family, including The Living Legend Award by the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion.

Colbert Croft:

The Rev. Colbert Croft and his wife Joyce spent 49 years together ministering and writing songs. They wrote one of the best-known songs of today, “I Can’t Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand).” Other songs include “I Believe When He Died, He Died for Me,” “Is That Footsteps I Hear?,” and “Flow Through Me.” The Crofts also hosted the annual Labor Day Singing in Valdosta, Georgia for over 25 years.

Claris G. “Cat” Freeman:

Mr. Freeman began singing with The Maddox Brothers in 1936 at the age of 14. He joined The Blackwood Brothers in 1948. In 1951, he joined Hovie Lister and The Statesmen Quartet and was with them for two years. He returned in 1957 after the death of Denver Crumpler. Through the years, he also sang for The Oak Ridge Quartet, The Revelaires Quartet, The Melody Masters Quartet, The Deep South Quartet and The Jubilee Quartet. Claris G. “Cat” Freeman passed away on March 21, 1989.

Warren Lester Roberts:

Mr. Roberts' first job was at WEAS in Decatur, Georgia. A year later, he started producing a popular radio program called, "Gospel Quartet Time," which aired for 40 years. In 1958, he was signed by an Atlanta NBC affiliate to do a weekly, 30-minute Southern Gospel television program. "Warren Roberts Presents" became very successful in the Atlanta area, and was later extended to one hour. In 1971, he hosted a live Southern Gospel program on the Christian Broadcasting Network, which was broadcast nationwide. Roberts was also a successful songwriter, penning songs like "Somewhere Along the Way," which was recorded by George Beverly Shea. Warren Lester Roberts passed away on April 5, 2011.

Francis Jane “Fanny” Crosby Van Alstyne:

Mrs. Van Alstyne has been credited with writing over 9000 hymns during her career. Blinded by a medical error during her first year of life, her grandmother read her the bible regularly. Young Francis started writing poetry at the age of 8. At 15, she entered the New York Institute for the Blind, and became a teacher there. She was hired by William Bradbury to write hymns for his publishing company, penning such classics as "Safe in the Arms of Jesus," "Near the Cross," "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior," "Rescue the Perishing," "I Am Thine, ‘O Lord," "Jesus is Calling," and her personal testimony, "Blessed Assurance." Francis wrote until her death on February 12, 1915 at age 94.

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