Francis Edward "Ab" Abernethy died Saturday, March 21, 2015, in Nacogdoches. Dr. Abernethy was a folklorist and not strictly a Sacred Harp singer. But he was a friend of Sacred Harp whose work in the field of folklore brought him in contact with it, and whose writings preserved some of our history. He is the author of Singin' Texas (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1994). He wrote the chapter on "Anglo-Texan Spirituals" in Tell Me a Story, Sing Me a Song: a Texas Chronicle, in which he preserves information about mostly forgotten singing near Austonio, Texas. He wrote "Singing All Day & Dinner on the Grounds" in Observations and Reflections on Texas Folklore, scenes from his visit to an East Texas Convention at Harris Chapel (probably in the late 1960s). Abernethy wrote the article on at Handbook of Texas Online.
If I remember correctly, Dr. Abernethy was one of the organizers of the 'Sacred Harp Preservation Symposium' held at Stephen F. Austin State Iniversity in 1994. Some of his other activities include a Professor at SFASU, a member of the East Texas String Ensemble, President of the Texas Folklore Society, Secretary-Editor of the Texas Folklore Society for thirty-two years, and an active member of the East Texas Historical Association.
I have a letter from Dr. Abernethy in which he wished to remembered in a memorial lesson by Sacred Harp singers. I wanted to find it and quote him -- but if I wait that long I may never post this! I can't find it, but I know I didn't throw it away. At least maybe the first sentence in this paragraph captures the gist of what he wrote.
Here is a short quote from his chapter "Singing All Day & Dinner on the Grounds": "Compared to Sacred Harp, First Church music is water to wine."
A memorial service for Dr. Abernethy will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, 2015, at Banita Creek Hall in Nacogdoches, Texas.