The Celebration of a Life in Service -
Dr. Albertina Walker
(October 14 and 15, 2010)
The faithful gathered to both witness and partake in the funeral services. Upon entering the massive sanctuary at the Apostolic Church of God on Thursday, October 14th, music flowed from the speakers chronicling Dr. Walker from her early days with The Caravans to her extensive time as a solo artist.
Angie Spivey joined Monica Stevenson on "Lord Keep Me Day by Day", while Vernon Oliver Price covered "In Shady Green Pastures", Tanya Ray sang "I Don't Know About Tomorrow", Pastor DeAndrae Patterson sang "I Sure Do Love the Lord" and Deloris Washington did an impromptu cover of "I'm Still Here".
Remarks came from Bishop Gordon Humphrey, Pastor L. Bernard Jakes (Albertina's Pastor), Rev. Milton Biggham, Al "The Bishop" Hobbs, Chicago media personalities Effie Rolfe and Art Norman, Gospel Today's Dr. Teresa Hairston, Pastor Shirley Caesar and Evangelist Dorothy Norwood.
Special guests sharing in the evening were Lady Tramaine Hawkins, Joe Ligon of The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Chicago's own Delois Barrett Campbell and The Barrett Sisters and a mass choir comprised of Chicago Mass, New Direction and Joshua's Troop under the direction of Percy Gray.
The evening ended on a high note with the finale of "I Can Go to God in Prayer", featuring a plethora of singers including songwriter Reverend Calvin Bridges, Ami Rushes and Ricky Dillard.
The Friday service brought more music and more tributes amidst the laughter and the tears. Faith Howard (who was the first recipient of the Albertina Walker Scholarship and whose first album was produced by Albertina Walker and Dorothy Norwood) opened the service with a stirring rendition of "Great is Thy Faithfulness".
The civic community was represented by tributes from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Congressman Bobby Rush, Judge Shelvin Louise Hall and a resolution read by Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Bishop Neal Roberson, one of Dr. Walker's favorite artists, shared brief remarks before singing the song she loved to hear, "Don't Let the Devil Ride". Jacqueline Jackson, wife of the Rainbow Push Coalition President and Founder Reverend Jesse Jackson, gave remarks followed by her son, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Annette Queenie Lenox dedicated "I Won't Complain" (a song made popular as recorded by her father, the late Elder James Lenox) to the family.
The religious community was represented by Reverend Byron Brazier, Pastor of Chicago's Apostolic Church of God, the inimitable Reverend Clay Evans of Chicago's Fellowship Baptist Church, Pastor Jolinda Wade (mother of Dwayne Wade) and Pastor W. James Campbell, pastor of Chicago's St James Ministries Church of God in Christ and world renowned evangelist and revivalist. Pastor Campbell set the stage for Kathy Taylor Brown to wreck the house with her rendition of "The Corinthian Song".
Tributes were given from the Chicago Gospel Music Festival(the largest free gospel music festival in the world of which Dr. Walker was a member). Pastor DeAndrae Patterson said at the close of his remarks that the committee stands in full agreement that the fest should be renamed in honor of Albertina Walker.
Stellar Awards Founder and Producer Don Jackson echoed those sentiments and spoke on how Albertina was often consulted and offered wise counsel and advice on what and who should be featured in the Stellar Awards program each year. Jackson also indicated that the 2011 Best Female Traditional Category will be renamed the Albertina Walker Best Female Traditional Category. Yolanda Adams sang "Walk Around Heaven All Day" as a fitting tribute.
Edwin Hawkins spoke of his experiences working with Albertina on the set of the Leap of Faith movie, while the family tribute was offered by Garvey Walker, a nephew.
The Caravans consisting of Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Deloris Washington, Gwen Morgan and Loleatta Holloway backed by Faith Howard and Just Friends brought the church to their feet with "Sweepin' Through the City". Dana Morgan gave new dimension to "To God Be the Glory" as she played during the reading of the obituary and right before the eulogy by Albertina's pastor.
The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, shared her memories of coming to Chicago with her father, Reverend C L Franklin, as well as Rev. Franklin bringing the gospel groups to New Bethel in Detroit for afternoon programs on Sundays. (Be sure watch Aretha Franklin's performance and The Caravans' selection, as viewed via the GOSPELflava.com Blog).
This was indeed a fitting tribute by the a small representative of the many thousands that Albertina Walker, the Queen of Gospel Music, touched during her life and her ministry.
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