photograph of McRae Meadows with people of all ages in chairs and on lawnWhen Joe L. Hartley organized the first Singing on the Mountain in 1924, he had no idea that it would grow and grow and last almost a century until it ended this past weekend.

Much about the annual event caused it to become one of the largest and longest running gospel singings of its kind in the nation.  It has been presented in the midst of a region that highly values singing gospel songs and hearing preachers expound on the Bible.  People have come from close by and far away and found comfort in the cool mountain air at MacRae Meadows.  They have looked at the scenery on Grandfather Mountain as they experienced an outstanding occasion that kept them returning year after year.  Too, local and regional groups have been scheduled along with those who are widely known.  Another appeal has been that local singers and speakers and ones from distant places have been included.

Among the singers performing have been Johnny and June Cash, Mother Maybelle, Cookman Family, Primitive Quartet, George Hamilton IV, Michael Combs, John’s River Quartet, Patricia Smith, Chuck Wagon Gang, Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman, Arthur Smith, and the Crossroads Quartet, Roy Acuff, Rick Webb Family, and Bascomb Lamar Lunsford.

The long list of of speakers includes native son Tommy Burleson, former North Carolina governor James Holshouser, Leighton Ford, Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, Billy Graham and daughter Ann, son Franklin, and grandson Will.  Billy Graham’s attendance in 1962 drew a crowd estimated at more than 200,000.

Leaders of the event hoped and prayed for good weather, and with the exception of a few times it happened.  When Billy Graham was speaking, thunder rumbled in the distance, but it did not rain at MacRae Meadows.

The last song has been sung and the final talk given at the Singing on the Mountain this past June 26, and that brings an end to almost a century of a tradition that has warmed hearts of untold thousands and will be etched in memory.

James Byrd

(Submitted May 30, 2022; Edited on June 27, 2022)

Image is a scene from Singing on the Mountain– courtesy of Wikipedia