Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"One of the best known singers in this section"

McWhorter, Billy Owen (March 28, 1885January 20, 1929) was born in Alabama, the son of Millard Fillmore McWhorter and Martha Jane Hays. M. F. McWhorter may have helped on J. L. White’s Fifth Edition Sacred Harp before working on the 1911 James Edition, since his name appears in that Revision Committee. Three of his songs – Denson, Green and Davidson – are found on pages 167 and 168, respectively (back section). Green is basically the same tune as Jackson, and White’s book may have been its first appearance in print (according to whether Union Harp or J. L. White's book was available first). Jackson was in the Union Harp in 1909 and Original Sacred Harp in 1911, and was continued in the Denson Revision of the Original Sacred Harp. It was added to the B. F. White Sacred Harp (Cooper Book) in 1992. Billy married first Elsie Bertie Jones in 1905, and after her death Vera Roberts in 1919. According to J. S. James, B. O. McWhorter was living in Atlanta circa 1909, but he was back in Cleburne County, Alabama by the time of the 1910 U.S. Census, and had moved to Oxford in Calhoun County by 1920. Eternal are Thy Mercies Lord is found in both the Union Harp (composition dated 1908) and The Sacred Harp, Fifth Edition (composition not dated), but was not included in either White’s Fourth Edition with Supplement or the James Edition Sacred Harps in 1911. The parts are arranged differently in the The Sacred Harp, Fifth Edition and the Union Harp, and may reflect the part-writing opinions of J. L. White on the one hand, and S. M. Denson on the other. B. O. McWhorter would have been in his early twenties when this song was written. He died at Birmingham in Jefferson County, Alabama and is buried in the Mount Paran Baptist Church Cemetery at Piney Woods, Cleburne County, Alabama. A 1918 death notice of Elsie in The Anniston Star described her husband as “one of the best known singers in this section.”

            215       Eternal are Thy Mercies Lord (1909 5th Edition)

Though the Sacred Harp books list this person as B. O. McWhorter, Find-A-Grave and his World War I draft registration give his name as William Owen McWhorter, with “Billy” as his nickname. Some sources spell this as “Billie”.

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