Minutes of Sacred Harp Singings

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Leon Wilson Memorial Singing

Santa Cruz, California

Tuesday, December 16, 1997

A memorial singing was held for Leon Wilson of Santa Cruz, California who passed away just before Thanksgiving at the age of 86. The singing included Mr. Wilson’s song “Summerfield,” which he composed in 1940 but first led at a singing in 1995 at the All-California State Convention.

Mr. Wilson was an esteemed singer who first taught Sacred Harp Singing in Tennessee at the Highlander Folk School in 1939. He was the chairman of the Tennessee state singing convention in 1941 and 1942, and is pictured and mentioned in George Pullen Jackson’s book “White and Negro Spirituals.” His teaching and composing skills were greatly admired by his friends, which included Lon Odem, A.M. Cagle and Paine Denson. He taught and directed a Sacred Harp choir while imprisoned as a conscientious objector in 1943 at McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington state.

He resided in Santa Cruz during his retirement years. He was a thoughtful and inspiring friend to all and an active supporter of Sacred Harp music. He will be greatly missed.