The loss of one of our best

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 30, 2003

One of Alabama’s greatest natives, Vestal Goodman, died on Dec. 27. It was the end of an era of southern gospel music which all began in our great state.

Vestal Goodman was nationally known as the Queen of Gospel Music and one of the founding members of the renowned Happy Goodman Family.

A native of Fyffe, Ala., Vestal is one of Alabama’s most well known and award-winning daughters.

Unfortunately, she never reached the level of fame and fortune that some of Alabama’s successful sons and daughters have simply due to her chosen career. She was, nonetheless, as great and accomplished as any.

As a matter of fact, if years of dedicated service and devotion to God have anything to do with it, she’s probably the most accomplished Alabamian in history.

Vestal and the Happy Goodman Family which included her husband, Howard, and his brothers, Rusty and Sam, won multiple Grammy and Dove Awards through the years.

They were pioneers of the southern gospel music movement and instrumental in its revival via the popular, world-renowned Gaither Homecoming Series.

This past Nov. 16 was a dream come true for me to be able to have Vestal Goodman in my home church for what,, unbeknownst to us, was one of her last concerts.

To be able to spend some personal time with her was a phenomenal experience. I have never been in the presence of anyone in my life that brought me so close to the presence of God.

I had met presidents, prime ministers, movie stars, famous athletes and scholars, but none had thrilled me more than meeting Vestal Goodman.

She was a godly, multi-talented successful woman who was always proud to call Alabama her home, and put Sand Mountain, Ala., on the map.

Bill Gaither refers to Ms. Goodman as a &uot;national treasure,&uot; and says when you hear her sing, you are hearing the most dynamic and greatest voice that has ever been heard in gospel music. I couldn’t agree with him more.

Many times I have been inspired by her music. &uot;God Walks the Dark Hills&uot; is perhaps my favorite Vestal song, though it is a toss up between 50 others of equal magnitude, 15 which were No. 1 hits.

Growing up in south Alabama, I would awaken to the television show Gospel Jubilee and the Happy Goodman Family singing &uot;I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ for my Journey Now.&uot;

It was as much a part of life back then as all-day singings, dinner on the grounds, ice cream socials and watermelon cuttings.

It was a southern tradition, and she was a gospel music legend.

Vestal Goodman is undeniably one of Alabama’s greatest natives.

While there are many famous, award-winning athletes, writers and musicians who have hailed from this great state; very few if any have had such a profound impact on the salvation of so many people.

Vestal Goodman and her family were never concerned with selling millions of records or winning hundreds of awards, though they did both.

She and her family were always about winning hearts and souls for God, and millions of those they won as well.

Vestal Goodman will not only be remembered by the nation as the Queen of Gospel Music, but by Alabama as one of our most accomplished natives and greatest contributions to the world.

Beth Chapman serves as Alabama’s State Auditor. She and her husband, James, and two sons, Taylor and Thatcher, have a home in north Shelby County