A Dove Award nominee and one of the biggest names in Southern gospel music will be in concert this weekend when Squire Parsons performs at Stewart Baptist Church in Covington. This is the first time the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame member has performed at Stewart Baptist and the congregation is excited to have him. The entire community is invited to the free concert Saturday night, which will also include son Sam Parsons.
"We've been fans a long time," said Sherry Jones, wife of Stewart Baptist's Pastor Jerry Jones. "Jerry was a fan of his before I was. He said, 'You ought to listen to this guy' and gave me his CD. I started listening and he is awesome."
A native of West Virginia, Parsons grew up in a Christian home and was introduced to gospel music by his father, Squire Parsons Sr., a church choir director who taught shaped-note music.
Parsons attended West Virginia Institute of Technology and received a bachelor's degree in 1970. He served as an interim music director, church soloist, elementary school music teacher and high school band director until his professional singing career took off in 1975.
That was the year he became the baritone singer for the famed Kingsmen Quartet. In 1979, he went into a solo ministry and the awards and accolades have been numerous. Singing News named him Favorite Baritone in 1986 and 1987; Favorite Gospel Songwriter in 1986 and 1992 to 1995; and Favorite Southern Gospel Male Singer in 1988.
Parsons has also been nominated for Dove Awards for male vocalist and songwriter. He received the Marvin Norcross Award in 1990, which honored him for his devotion to family, church, involvement in community affairs and contributions to the gospel music industry.
Fans of gospel music probably know him best for "Sweet Beulah Land," a song he wrote that was named Favorite Song of the Year in 1981 by the Singing News. Some of the other top gospel songs written by Parsons include "Master of the Sea," "Oh, What a Moment," "The Broken Rose," "I'm Not Giving Up" and "I Go to the Rock."
Parsons was recognized by his alma mater, West Virginia Institute of Technology, with an honorary doctorate in 1999. He was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame in 2008.
Part of the popular "Gaither Homecoming" video series, Parsons has remained a strong presence in the world of gospel music and continues to take part in the Singing At Sea Cruise and the January Bible Study Cruise with Templeton Tours of Boone, N.C.
In past years, Parsons has been a guest soloist at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta; Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., with the late Dr. Jerry Falwell; and the Little Rock Crusade in Little Rock, Ark., with Dr. Billy Graham.
Ordained in 1979 at his home church in Asheville, N.C., Trinity Baptist, Parsons and his wife Linda live in Leicester, N.C., and have four grown children.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. concert Saturday and while admission is free, a love offering will be taken that evening. Stewart Baptist Church is located at 158 Stewart Church Road in Covington.
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Loganville. If you have a story idea, email Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.