Monday, January 16, 2012

Hymnals Published by Firm Foundation (Austin, Texas), 1909-1979

For several decades in the 20th century, the Firm Foundation was second only to the venerable Gospel Advocate among the religious journals read by the Churches of Christ in the U.S. It was by far the leading voice from Texas, and its influence was strong in the bordering states; I distinctly remember my father reading it and retaining back issues for future reference. Firm Foundation published an adult Sunday School quarterly, just as Gospel Advocate did; and like its competitor on the other side of the Mississippi, the Firm Foundation publishing enterprise included hymnals.

Firm Foundation Publishing House, 27 August 1946
Austin History Center via Portal to Texas History
Firm Foundation began as a weekly journal in Austin, Texas, in 1884. It was first edited by Austin McGary (1846-1928), followed by G. W. Savage (1860-1923) in 1902 and then George H. P. Showalter (1870-1954) in 1906. Showalter ran the paper for nearly half a century. After his death in 1954 Reuel Lemmons (1912-1989) edited the paper, though the Showalter family continued as owners. In 1983 the Showalter family sold the enterprise to H. A. "Buster" Dobbs and Bill Cline, who changed the journal to a bi-weekly, then to a monthly format.(Crawford)

A search of has turned up no fewer than 38 hymn publications from Firm Foundation, spanning the years 1909-1979. No doubt there are more, and I would be glad to hear of others so that I could add them to the list below. My Worldcat list of these hymnals (which also shows the libraries that hold them) can be viewed at:
  • Gospel Songs, ed. James W. Acuff & William D. Evridge (1909; ca. 240 hymns)
  • Zion Melodies, ed. Austin Taylor, George H. P. Showalter, J. S. Dunn, Frank Grammer (1910; 80 hymns)
  • For His Praise, ed. Woodie Washington Smith, Austin Taylor, L. E. Edmonds (1911)
  • New Songs of Victory, ed. Austin Taylor et al. (1911; 155 hymns)
  • Song Crown, ed. Austin Taylor et al. (1912; 154 hymns)
  • Select Songs, ed. Austin Taylor & J. M. Hagan (1913; 48 hymns)
  • Harvest call, ed. Austin Taylor (1913; ca. 120 hymns)
  • The New Gospel Song Book, ed. George H. P. Showalter & Austin Taylor (1914; 224 hymns)
  • New Songs of Praise, ed. Austin Taylor & George H. P. Showalter (1916; 219 hymns)
  • Gospel Songs no. 2, ed. Austin Taylor & George H. P. Showalter (1919; 210 hymns)
  • Jewel Quartets, ed. Austin Taylor (1910s?; 12 hymns)
  • Harvest Hymns, ed. Austin Taylor, George H. P. Showalter, Tillit S. Teddlie (c. 1921?; 108 hymns)
  • Church Evangel, ed. Emmett S. Dean et al. (1921?; 94 hymns)
  • Hymns of Zion, ed. Austin Taylor, George H. P. Showalter, Tillit S. Teddlie (1922; 159 hymns)
  • Songs of the Reapers no. 2, ed. Austin Taylor, George H. P. Showalter, Tillit S. Teddlie (1923?; 77 hymns)
  • Gospel Songs no. 3, ed. Austin Taylor & George H. P. Showalter (1924, reprint 1934, 1937, 1940; 234 hymns)
  • Gospel Songs no. 4, ed. Austin Taylor & George H. P. Showalter (1927, reprint 1939; 193 hymns) [This was also published in 1927 by Primitive Christian in Union City, Tenn.]
  • Carols of Praise, ed. J. W. Gaines (1928; 176 hymns; co-published with Trio Music, Memphis, Tenn.[?])
  • Carols of Devotion, ed. J. W. Gaines (1930; 170 hymns)
  • New Ideal Gospel Hymn Book, ed. Austin Taylor, James W. Acuff, William D. Evridge, George H. P. Showalter (1930, reprint 1945, 1947; 320 hymns)
  • New Wonderful Songs, ed. Thomas S. Cobb & George H. P. Showalter (1933, reprint 1944; 296 hymns)
  • Select Songs, ed. Thomas S. Cobb & George H. P. Showalter (1935; 70 hymns)
  • Christian Hymns, ed. L. O. Sanderson & C. M. Pullias (1935) [This was a Gospel Advocate hymnal, the only occasion I have found when the two "rivals" published jointly.]
  • Best of All Songs, ed. Thomas S. Cobb & George H. P. Showalter (1937; 137 hymns)
  • Glad News, ed. Austin Taylor (1939; 66 hymns)
  • Special Songs New and Old, ed. Thomas S. Cobb & George H. P. Showalter (1940; 135 hymns)
  • Greater Gospel Songs, ed. Austin Taylor (1941; 190 hymns)
  • Our Leader, ed. Thomas S. Cobb & George H. P. Showalter (1941, reprint 1946; 175 hymns)
  • Majestic Hymnal, ed. Austin Taylor & George H. P. Showalter (1953; 329 hymns)
  • Majestic Hymnal no. 2, ed. Reuel G. Lemmons, with Tillit S. Teddlie, Austin Taylor, Holland Boring, Edgar Furr, Marvin Rowland, Elbert V. Kelley, Wilkin Bacon (1959; 442 hymns)
  • Tiny Tot Tunes, ed. John Fletcher Floyd (1960; 20 pages)
  • Heart Melodies, ed. Elbert V. Kelley (1961; 174 hymns)
  • Songs of Joyful Praise, ed. Frank Roberts (1965; 110 pages)
  • Awakening Songs, ed. Holland L. Boring, Sr. (1971; 201 hymns)
  • Songs for the Master, ed. Holland L. Boring, Sr. (1975; 213 hymns)
  • Gems for His Crown, ed. Holland L. Boring, Sr. & Bill Cox (1977; ca. 150 hymns)
  • Hymns of Praise, ed. Reuel G. Lemmons, associate eds. Holland Boring, Sr., Paul Epps, Bobby Connel, Bill Cox, Tom Chapin, Holland Boring, Jr., tech. advisor Eris Ritchie (1978; 753 hymns)
  • Songs of Hope, ed. Holland L. Boring, Sr. (1979; 216 hymns)
The table below shows the frequency with which these were published, by decade, and also the involvement of various editors.





*Assisted with Majestic Hymnal, no. 2 (1959)                       **Assisted with Hymns of Praise (1978)

Overview of Hymnal Publishing by Firm Foundation

There were two distinct eras of hymnal publishing at Firm Foundation: the years prior to the U.S. entry into the Second World War, and the postwar period. In the prewar days, the publications were typically the small paperbacks such as were used at singing schools and conventions. They usually numbered fewer than 200 songs, and featured many new works in the "quartet gospel" style. New books were issued much more frequently than one would expect with standard full-size hymnals, sometimes more than once a year.

Something changed this situation drastically; I have found no Firm Foundation hymnals from 1942-1952, except for a few reprints of earlier books. And when the Majestic Hymnal broke this silence in 1953, it presented a different kind of hymnal--larger, more inclusive of the traditional classical hymns, and more suited to use in weekly worship. Though there were still some smaller books consisting primarily of new material, they were far fewer in number than before. The emphasis was on the bigger, more ambitious hymnals; Majestic Hymnal, no. 2 (1959) and Hymns of Praise (1978) were collaborative efforts involving half-a-dozen or more editorial consultants.

What caused this change? One would expect that the Great Depression of the 1930s would have hurt any kind of publishing business, yet the Firm Foundation kept turning out hymnals at an impressive pace; counting reprints of earlier works, the years 1931-1940 yielded 8 publications, compared to 9 for 1921-1930 and 10 for 1909-1920. If anything, the hard times of the 1930s were a boost to the simple, cheap pleasures such as singing schools and "all day singing with dinner on the grounds." Perhaps a more important factor was the gradual disengagement of Austin Taylor from hymnal editing, starting about 1930 (more about this below). Taylor had been the leading music editor of the early period; but again, this did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm for new books during the following decade, and other editors stepped into Taylor's shoes.

The war years, however, brought challenges to the gospel "singing convention" culture. Many of the young men who were the song leaders, singing school teachers, and quartet singers, were away in the service of their country. Wartime rationing of gasoline and tires made travel more difficult for those who remained, both leaders and participants. At the same time, radio and recording media had matured and were expanding their influence. Families that once traveled all weekend to attend singings were now staying home and hearing their favorite gospel quartets over the airwaves instead. In the postwar era, this increased commercialization and centralization of the gospel music business led to a concert culture that began to supplant the traditional singing convention. Though the "fifth-Sunday singing" continues to this day in many places, the greater variety of entertainments available in the postwar era meant that the days were gone when the whole town would show up for a singing, regardless of religious inclinations, simply for something to do.(Goff, 157ff.)

At the same time, the postwar period was a time of dramatic change for the Churches of Christ in the United States. We saw many years of sustained numerical growth, leading to the oft-cited (but never quite proven?) claim that we were "the fastest-growing religious body in the nation." This period saw change in much more than numbers: the most dramatic growth was in urban and suburban congregations, where the membership was increasingly college-educated and relatively affluent.(Harrel, 568ff.) So if the publishing demand for the older "singing convention" books was not what it once had been, there was on the other hand a real opportunity for the publisher who could put full-size hymnals in the hands of all these new members and fill up the pew racks in all the new church buildings. Great Songs of the Church, for example, sold 250,000 copies (all editions combined) from 1921 to 1946; between 1946 and 1952 it sold three times that number.(McCann, 226) This was also the era that Gospel Advocate brought out Christian Hymns, no. 2 (1948), the ubiquitous little tan books once found throughout the southern states.

The Firm Foundation first responded to this demand with reprints of its two larger hymnals from the prewar era, the New Ideal Gospel Hymn Book (1930) and New Wonderful Songs (1933). But the long dearth of new hymnals came to an end in a big way in 1953 with the Majestic Hymnal, the last effort from the great editorial team of Austin Taylor and George H. P. Showalter. Following Showalter's death, the new editor of Firm Foundation, Reuel Lemmons, took a different approach. He assembled a "dream team" of consulting editors, tapping the talents of songwriters and singing school teachers who were widely recognized among the Churches of Christ in the western United States: Austin Taylor, Tillit S. Teddlie, Elbert V. Kelley, Holland Boring, Sr., Edgar Furr, Marvin Rowland, and Wilkin Bacon. Lemmons's other major hymnal, Hymns of Praise (1978) also had a panel of associate editors made up of well known names: Holland Boring, Sr., Paul Epps, Bobby Connel, Bill Cox, Tom Chapin, and Holland Boring, Jr.

By the Decades: Editors 1909-1920

One of the most influential figures in this early period actually never edited a Firm Foundation hymnal: Frank L. Eiland (1860-1909). He was one of the most important founders, however, of the "Texas school" of songwriters in the Churches of Christ, and was founder of the Trio Music Company and the Southern Development Normal in Waco, Texas. Eiland's school drew some of the best young talent in the state, including James W. Acuff, William Evridge, and Emmett S. Dean, who went on to edit songbooks for Trio Music and later for Firm Foundation. Eiland also taught Thomas S. Cobb, a Firm Foundation hymnal editor in later years. During his final illness, he even tutored the young Tillit S. Teddlie by correspondence from his sickbed.(Harp, "Eiland") Acuff, Evridge, and Dean co-edited several publications for Trio Music in the first decade of the 20th century, and Acuff and Dean co-wrote what is probably the single best-known song from this group, "Just over in the gloryland." The earliest Firm Foundation hymnal I could find, Gospel Songs (1909), was also co-edited by Acuff and Evridge, and was simultaneously published through Trio Music.

James Warren Acuff (1864-1937) was a native Texan whose parents moved there from Tennessee; he is often said to have been related to the country singer Roy Acuff, but the family trees I have seen for each don't seem to intersect. This was probably just a common assumption, since "Just over in the gloryland" crossed over into commercial country music; it is even sometimes misattributed to Roy Acuff! A search of the Bartlett Tribune in the invaluable Portal to Texas History shows that Acuff was engaged as the song leader for the Church of Christ in Georgetown, Texas in the 1930s, and was leading singing for gospel meetings in other communities. Though Acuff's involvement with the Firm Foundation hymnals was intermittent, his reappearance in the editorial team of the 1930 New Ideal Gospel Hymn Book was not a fluke. He was still active and sought-after, and by that time was probably one of the most widely known songwriters among the Churches of Christ. He wrote a large number of songs, many of which can be traced through

The best-known song by William D. Evridge (1873-1932) was probably "For the soul that's redeemed," with text by James Rowe. This song was copyrighted in 1907, an entry that confirms his full name: William Daniel Evridge.(Copyright Catalog, 74) The Bartlett Tribune mentions Evridge frequently as a song leader for gospel meetings in the Churches of Christ. The data given in his wife's obituary (Friday, June 8, 1934, p.1) confirms that Evridge died in 1932, and that the Daniel Evridge buried in the Grainger, Texas cemetery is the same W. D. Evridge. Acuff and Evridge worked together on the first Firm Foundation hymnal, and returned for the New Ideal Gospel Hymn Book (1930), a major stepping stone toward a full-size hymnal. Emmett S. Dean, the other major figure from Trio Music, was much less involved with Firm Foundation. It is possible that there was a desire on the part of Showalter or others to use only editors from the Churches of Christ; Dean was Methodist.(Cyberhymnal, "Dean") The Gospel Advocate, of course, had used Methodist and Baptist music editors in its early hymnals, but in Texas of the early 1900s there were many capable songwriters among the Churches of Christ who were available for this purpose.

Several other men were involved in the early Firm Foundation hymnals in various capacities during this busy period. James Sterling Dunn (1874-1922) was a native of Tennessee, one of five brothers who all preached for the Churches of Christ. He came to Texas and preached for the old Central Church of Christ in Fort Worth.(Harp,"J. S. Dunn") Dunn was a co-editor of Zion Melodies in 1911; I have not been able to discover any songs by him, or any other involvement with church music. James M. Hagan (1858-1933) is best known among the Churches of Christ for writing the music of "I would not live without Jesus" and "Oh the things we may do." A Baptist from rural Kentucky, Hagan worked his way through the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and became a nationally known figure in music education as well as in gospel music.(Rone, 457ff.) In addition to hymnals, he also edited music books for schools. Hagan co-edited Select Songs with Austin Taylor for Firm Foundation in 1913.

Frank Grammer was an associate of the songwriter and hymnal publisher Will Slater as far back as the Eureka Normal School in Stigler, Oklahoma. He edited several hymnals with Slater, and a few published by the Hartford Music Company. He later produced Favorite Songs of the Church numbers 1 and 2 (1946 and 1948) with Rue Porter, published by the Church Music Company in Fullerton, California. I have been unable to find anything else about his life, except that he was associated with several leaders among the Churches of Christ in the Oklahoma-Arkansas area.( According to the 1930 U.S. Census, Woodie Washington Smith was born in Alabama in 1877, and was a Baptist preacher in Crowell, Texas (between Wichita Falls and Lubbock). lists a large number of songs by Smith, and shows that he published hymnals under his own imprint "W. W. Smith Co." in Fort Worth, Texas from about 1915-1925. Smith was a co-editor of Firm Foundation's For His Praise in 1911, along with Austin Taylor and L. E. Edmonds. I have found no information on Edmonds except for a few songs listed in, and two hymnals he edited for the Ozark Music Company in Springfield, Missouri.

Taylor & Showalter: A Classic Team

Firm Foundation front office, 27 August 1946
Austin History Center via Portal to Texas History
(G.H.P. Showalter at right)
After the round-robin of the early years, an editorial team emerged that would set the pace for the next few decades: Austin Taylor and George H. P. Showalter. Though they are both listed as editors of Zion Melodies (1910), along with Dunn and Grammer, it was The New Gospel Song Book (1914) that began their lasting editorial partnership; by 1930 they issued no fewer than 10 hymnals with the familiar credits: "Austin Taylor & G.H.P. Showalter." After a hiatus of more than two decades, they co-edited the landmark Majestic Hymnal in 1953.

Austin Taylor (1881-1973) was born in Morgantown, Kentucky; his parents were baptized into Christ at the famous Cane Ridge congregation. The family moved to Sherman, Texas in 1890. He learned music in singing schools, and even had opportunity to study under the Chatauqua, New York songwriter Horatio Palmer ("Master, the tempest is raging"). Taylor was well known as a song leader for gospel meetings, and taught singing schools for more than 70 years. He was a founder of the Texas Normal Singing School.(Finley, 465ff.) Brother Taylor made a deep impression on many, many songleaders and songwriters through this work; see the Hymnal Collector post on Taylor's "On the sun-bright road of Calvary," and read the comments; see also Wayne Walker's post "A Bit of History" for more reminiscences about Austin Taylor.

Taylor was by far the most prolific of the Firm Foundation hymnal editors, and is probably the name most associated with these publications. Interestingly, though, his involvement waned after 1930; his name did not appear on another hymnal until 1939. This was followed by only two more (1941 and 1953), even though he was teaching singing schools into the early 1970s.(Finley, 467) Edgar Furr's recollections of Taylor's career during the Great Depression suggest that financial necessity may have been a factor. Taylor might have needed to spend more time on the road teaching singing schools and leading singing for gospel meetings, where remuneration was more immediate. It may have been that he simply could not devote the same time to the publishing business as he did in earlier years.

Austin Taylor's hymn "Closer to Thee" was one of the first songs by the "Texas school" of songwriters to be included in a hymnal of the Churches of Christ east of the Mississippi--Christian Hymns (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate, 1935), edited by Lloyd O. Sanderson and Charles M. Pullias. But his song "Do all in the name of the Lord," though not as widely used initially, may yet outlast "Closer to Thee" in the common usage of the Churches of Christ. It is a fine treatment of a much needed topic. Taylor also self-published hymnals, including his earliest book, the Gospel Messenger (1905), published in Sherman, Texas. Later in life he self-published Favorite Gospel Songs (1965), edited with Claude Thomas Lynn, and published at his home of Uvalde, Texas. In the 1970s the Texas Normal Singing School published a collection of his works, The Songs of Austin Taylor, honoring his lifetime of work in serving the Lord through song.

George Henry Pryor Showalter (1870-1954) edited the Firm Foundation, then a weekly journal, from 1908 until his death in 1954. He was without question one of the most influential men in the Churches of Christ during the early 20th century. In addition to his editorial duties, he wrote books on prayer, Christian unity, God's plan of salvation, marriage, and Christian stewardship. A native of Snowville, Virginia, Showalter came to Texas in 1897 as the first president of the short-lived Sabinal Christian College.(Harp, "Showalter") Upon taking the editorship of Firm Foundation, Showalter built it up from a one-issue paper (Austin McGary's baptism controversy with David Lipscomb) into a more balanced forum for discussion of many topics. By the 1920s it had nearly displaced the Gospel Advocate among Texas Churches of Christ. Showalter's leadership has been particularly noted in the area of missionary work.(Hooper, 138ff.)

Though Showalter edited a large number of hymnals, I can find only scattered references to any songs by him. (He should not be confused with the prolific Anthony J. Showalter, composer of "Leaning on the everlasting arms," and I can find no relation between the two.) Most likely his role was that of reviewing the textual content of the hymns, as was done by senior editors at Gospel Advocate.

By the Decades: Editors 1921-1930

Six of the nine Firm Foundation hymnals from the decade of the 1920s were edited Taylor and Showalter as well, including the significant Gospel Songs numbers 3 and 4, each of which went into reprints in later years. But they also utilized a third editor who was a rising star among songwriters in the Churches of Christ: Tillit S. Teddlie (1885-1987). A native of the community of Swan in East Texas (just outside Tyler), Teddlie attended the Southern Development Normal in Waco, Texas.(Harp, "Teddlie") He also received tutoring by correspondence from Frank L. Eiland.(Harp, "Eiland") Teddlie's formal education was completed at my alma mater, the North Texas State Teachers College (University of North Texas) in Denton, Texas. Though he was nationally known for his gospel songs, Teddlie was an evangelist first. He preached in gospel meetings from the early 1920s on, and spent most of his life preaching for congregations in the north and central regions of Texas.(Harp, "Teddlie")

Teddlie joined Taylor and Showalter as co-editor of Harvest Hymns, Hymns of Zion, and Songs of the Reapers no. 2, all published by Firm Foundation in the early 1920s (the exact dates are uncertain). He would have been a natural replacement for Taylor when the latter stepped away from hymnal editing in the 1930s, but by that time he was engaged in his own publishing ventures. A search of reveals that Teddlie published his own songbooks from Dallas, Texas, beginning in 1936. He brought out a new volume nearly every year, even through the early part of the Second World War. After a wartime interruption, Teddlie resumed occasional publishing from various places where he was preaching in Texas, such as Ennis, Sulphur Springs, and Greenville. His hymnal editing career culminated in the Great Christian Hymnal (Abilene, Texas: Brotherhood Press, 1962), a full-size hymnal for weekly worship. This was followed by a second edition in 1965. For more on Teddlie as songwriter, see my post surveying his hymns.

Hymnal publishing at Firm Foundation during the 1920s continued at nearly the same frenetic pace as it had in the preceding decade, and other editors stood in the gap as needed. Emmett Sydney Dean (1876-1951), who wrote the music for Acuff's "Just over in the glory land," was lead editor for Church Evangel, published circa 1921. Dean was a founder of the Trio Music Company, and co-edited Dawning Light with Frank L. Eiland and H. W. Elliott in 1895, the earliest Trio publication I have been able to discover. He edited more than two dozen songbooks for Trio Music in the first quarter of the 20th century. Two other Firm Foundation hymnals appeared later in the decade under the editorship of James Washington Gaines (1880-1937). Another Methodist songwriter, Gaines was an associate from the early days of the Trio Music Company, and a personal friend of Frank L. Eiland--it was at Gaines's log cabin home in Palo Pinto County, Texas, that Eiland wrote the famous music to "Hold to God's unchanging hand."(Walker, "In that home") Gaines is best remembered among the Churches of Christ for "Take my hand and lead me," and for the music of "You never mentioned Him to me."

Firm Foundation closed out the decade with the New Ideal Gospel Hymn Book (1930). For this effort, the editorial team of Taylor and Showalter was augmented by James W. Acuff and William Evridge, editors of the first Firm Foundation hymnal back in 1909. Wayne Walker has identified this hymnal one of the most important of the early Firm Foundation hymnals.("Hymnbooks") It was the first of the larger hymnals (300-plus songs), and was reprinted in 1945 and 1947 as demand for this kind of book was rising among the Churches of Christ.

By the Decades: Editors 1931-1940; 1941-1950

As mentioned before, Austin Taylor's involvement with the Firm Foundation hymnals declined sharply after 1930. He edited only one more, in fact, until after the Second World War: Glad News (1939). The new hymnal team at Firm Foundation in the 1930s was instead Cobb & Showalter. Thomas S. Cobb (1876-1942), a native Texan, was educated in much the same circles as Taylor, and received his music diploma from the Western Normal and College of Music in Dallas. He taught singing schools across Texas and the bordering states, and was particularly noted for the "Cobb Quartet" made up of his four daughters. He was recruited to Firm Foundation by Showalter in 1935.(Finley, 122ff.) Cobb edited only four hymnals for Firm Foundation before his death in 1942, but among these was the significant New Wonderful Songs (1933); at 296 hymns it was part of the trend toward more substantial publications.

Prior to his work with Firm Foundation, Cobb edited hymnals for the Quartet Music Company of Fort Worth, Texas. A search of shows that he was involved with at least 7 books for this publisher, going back as far as the 1890s when it was called the "Quartette Company." One of these earlier works, From the Cross to the Crown (1921?) was subtitled, "Scriptural Songs," and was co-edited with Elder T. B. Clark and T. B. Mosley, one of the most well-known singing school teachers among the Churches of Christ in the southeastern U.S.(Finley, 366ff.) Mosley was also known as a staunch doctrinal conservative. This gives some idea of the bona fides Cobb brought with him during the era of the "hymnal controversy" surrounding E. L. Jorgenson's Great Songs of the Church. Jorgenson was firmly in the premillennial camp, and was an editor of Word and Work, the primary voice of this viewpoint within the Churches of Christ. Opponents of premillennialism objected to several hymns in Great Songs that supported this doctrine, or were at least questionable. (Most of these were removed or altered in the better-known "No. 2" edition).

Foy E. Wallace, Jr., the most vocal opponent of the premillennial movement, did more than object to individual hymns--he was opposed to using the hymnal at all. As editor of the Gospel Advocate during the early 1930s, Wallace brought in Lloyd O. Sanderson to work on an alternative, the Christian Hymns "no. 1." This desire to catch up with the popularity of Great Songs was probably what led to one of the most unusual events in the history of Firm Foundation hymnal publishing: when Gospel Advocate released the hymnal in 1935, it was co-published with rival Firm Foundation. It is the only such occasion I have found. Wallace left the Gospel Advocate before the hymnal actually came out, and preached in Oklahoma for a time. It was during this period, as best I can tell, that he submitted a series of articles to Firm Foundation in which he attacked Jorgenson and Great Songs of the Church from every angle imaginable. These are useful documents because they give the most detailed description of exactly which songs were considered "premillennial" (some really are, though as usual, some come down to poetic interpretation). But they are also sad evidence of a tendency to attack the person as well as the doctrine, often with a hateful sarcasm unbecoming to a Christian gentleman. It is all the more tragic in a man of Wallace's ability. Wallace particularly praised Austin Taylor's editing, however, considering it more attentive to scripturalness.

The decade of the 1940s saw very little activity in new hymnals at the Firm Foundation. Austin Taylor edited one smaller book, Greater Gospel Songs, and the Cobb & Showalter team brought forth another titled Our Leader. Both of these were published in 1941 before the U.S. entry into World War Two. No new hymnals would come from the Firm Foundation presses for more than a decade, though some earlier songbooks were reprinted.

By the Decade: Editors 1951-1960

Firm Foundation Bookstore, 27 August 1946
Austin History Center via Portal to Texas History
Thomas S. Cobb passed from this life in 1942, shortly after the last of the pre-war Firm Foundation hymnals appeared. When Firm Foundation returned to hymnal publishing after the war, it first offered reprints of earlier books. But a new project was in the offing, and the classic team of Taylor and Showalter reunited for a completely different kind of work. The result was a new full-size hardback hymnal that would be the most successful ever to come from the Firm Foundation presses: the Majestic Hymnal, first published in 1953. It marked the end of an era as well as a beginning; the revered George H. P. Showalter passed away the following year, and this was his final collaboration with Austin Taylor. They truly saved the best for last!

A 1954 article by Edgar Furr of the Texas Normal Singing School shows the enthusiasm with which this hymnal was received:
Our song book the "Majestic Hymnal" printed by the Firm Foundation is the official song book used in the school. The book contains a great number of new songs printed for the first time in 1953. Many of the new hymns were written by the teachers of our school and some were contributed by our friends and were placed in the book by the request of our faculty. The song services where this book is being used have created more interest and have shown a marked improvement. We have never been given to "conventional" singing.
This was an era when the Churches of Christ experienced rapid growth, riding the baby boom and postwar optimism. College education was increasingly accessible thanks to the "G.I. Bill," and for better or worse, the average affluence of congregations rose as membership in urban and suburban congregations grew. This phenomenon naturally led to an increased demand for substantial hymnals suitable for weekly worship; and though the gospel roots remained strong, there was also a desire for greater inclusion of music from the broader tradition of English hymnody. Great Songs of the Church had taken this approach from the beginning, and I believe it had an influence on Lloyd O. Sanderson's selections in Christian Hymns no. 2 (1948). Majestic Hymnal was the last of these major postwar hymnals to appear, but proved a worthy competitor and had a strong following in the western U.S.

Following the death of Showalter in 1954, the editorship of Firm Foundation passed to Reuel Lemmons (1912-1989). Lemmons was a native of Arkansas, but grew up in Tipton, Oklahoma near the border of the Texas panhandle. He became a prominent preacher and missionary, founding the Pan-American Lectureship held in Central and South America, and the European Lectureship held in Vienna. He was especially noted for his missionary work in Africa. Lemmons became the editor of Firm Foundation in 1955, following the death of George H. P. Showalter.(Finley, 314ff.) Terry Crawford notes that Lemmons was one of the most widely respected leaders in the Churches of Christ during the second half of the century, serving as a voice of moderate reason in the disputes of the era. This certainly matches the impression I received of Lemmons from my own parents, who held him in high regard. (I am sure his Oklahoma roots in no way prejudice my opinion.)

Though Lemmons wrote a few hymn texts, his most important role was as lead editor in the production of two hymnals. He oversaw the 1959 Majestic Hymnal, no. 2, probably the most influential of all the Firm Foundation hymnals. He also edited the 1978 Hymns of Praise, another work on a similar scale. Lemmons followed a somewhat different approach from that of Showalter. Though he is listed as editor, he drew on a large pool of music editors, broadening the perspective brought to the decisions involved. The title page presents a long and distinguished list of men as contributors: Austin Taylor, Tillit S. Teddlie, Elbert V. Kelley, Holland Boring, Sr., Edgar Furr, Marvin Rowland, and Wilkin Bacon.

Taylor and Teddlie need no further introduction! Elbert V. Kelley (1887-1970) was a native of Arkansas, but his family moved to Sabinal, Texas while he was still a small child. His career was centered around Sabinal, at that time the home of the Texas Normal Singing School.(Finley, 309) He is best remembered for his song, "I'll go" (1953). Following his involvement with Majestic Hymnal no. 2 he also edited Heart Melodies (1961).

Holland L. Boring, Sr. (1905-2000), a native Texan who graduated high school in Austin, would not be associated with Firm Foundation's hymnals until much later in life. After a decade as a public school principal, he went into full-time preaching, but went to Oregon in the 1950s as dean of Columbia Christian College in Portland. He directed the chorus there as well, and also directed music in the Columbia Christian High School. Boring's formal music training began at a singing school taught by Virgil O. Stamps, and he was teaching singing schools himself from the age of 16. He and Austin Taylor were the first teachers in the Texas Normal Singing School, and Boring later would establish the Haskell Singing School in western Texas, and the Foundation School of Church Music in the Austin area.(Finley, 84ff.) He wrote numerous songs, the best known of which is probably "He is near." This song debuted in the original 1953 Majestic Hymns.

Edgar Furr spent much of his preaching career in southern Texas, along the Gulf coast and the Texas-Mexico border. He attended Abilene Christian College around 1929-1930, and began preaching soon after.(Finley, 215) He was a lifelong friend of Austin Taylor, with whom he shared the hardships of a traveling preacher during the Depression. The two later co-founded the Texas Normal Singing School in Sabinal, Texas. This school is currently operated from the campus of Abilene Christian University, under the direction of the founder's son, Joe Ed Furr. It is the oldest such school still in operation.

Marvin Rowland (1907-2002) was a preacher in the central and western areas of Texas, but supplemented his income through farming, school teaching, and running a feed store. (More than one small-town preacher can relate to this!) He was a 1933 graduate of Abilene Christian College,(Christian Chronicle) where he sang in gospel quartets that traveled to area communities to support evangelistic efforts.(Optimist) He was serving as superintendent of the Sunny Glenn Children's Home in San Benito, Texas around the time that Majestic Hymnal no. 2 was published.(Del Rio News Herald)

Wilkin Bacon (1909-1981), a son of the Choctaw Nation of southeast Oklahoma, was a singer in the Frank Stamps Quartet in his early days but gave up a professional career in music to preach the gospel full-time. He is best remembered for his song "Can He depend on you?" (see this post for more on his life and career).

I have not been able to examine the comparatively rare 1953 Majestic Hymnal, but thumbing through the Majestic Hymnal no. 2, I am impressed with the quality of this work. Though Furr's 1954 article naturally pointed out the contributions of the Texas Normal faculty and students, the editorial team did not pad the hymnal with their own compositions. There are a number of songs by Taylor and Teddlie, of course, and a few by Eiland, Kelley, and others from the "Texas School." There is certainly a distinct Texas flavor to the work, to be sure, but it has a good representation of traditional 19th-century gospel and classical hymns as well. Though it is a fairly brief volume (442 hymns) and more than half-a-century old, it would be workable hymnal for many traditional Churches of Christ even today. I have certainly had to use worse!

I have found only one other Firm Foundation music publication from this era, Tiny Tot Tunes (1960) by John Fletcher Floyd. lists a volume called Hymns for Him (New York: Vantage Press, 1965), which might be by the same individual. I have not determined whether this is the same John Fletcher Floyd who published Thy Kingdom Come: A Survey of Church History in the Twentieth Century (Fort Worth: Star Bible Publications, 1996).

By the Decades: Editors 1961-1970 and 1971-1980

Though the Majestic Hymnal no. 2 ascended in popularity during the 1960s, Firm Foundation introduced only two hymnals during that decade: Heart Melodies (1961) edited by Elbert V. Kelley, and Songs of Joyful Praise (1965) edited by Frank Roberts. This might be the Frank Roberts (1927-2006) who was a choral director at Columbia Christian College,(Miller, 52) and later in the high school department of the Columbia Christian School.(FindAGrave)

The decade of the 1970s was dominated by one editor, Holland L. Boring, Sr., who was second only to Taylor and Showalter in the number of hymnals he edited for Firm Foundation. After his work with Columbia Christian College and School during the 1950s, Boring returned to preaching in western Texas. A Google search of his name turns up repeated references to his preaching for the Church of Christ in Spur, Texas during the 1960s. During this period he established the Haskell Singing School in Haskell, Texas (halfway between Fort Worth and Lubbock).(Walker, "I ask the prayers") In 1968 Holland Boring, Sr. and Reuel Lemmons inaugurated the Foundation School of Church Music near Austin, Texas. Boring, Sr. directed the school for many years.("FSCM History")

He was thus involved in the founding of the three most influential permanent singing schools among the Churches of Christ, having also established the Texas Normal Singing School with Austin Taylor in 1946. All three of these institutions are still in operation today. The following article by Holland Boring, Sr., We need more singing schools, reveals his commitment to training new generations of song leaders, singers, and songwriters. More than this, it reveals his deep understanding of the importance of church music in the spiritual development of Christians. Like Shakespeare, Boring must have believed that,
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
(Merchant of Venice, V, i, 83-85)
Most of Boring's publications for Firm Foundation were of the smaller paperback variety, promoting new songs from the singing schools. The return to this format may have been a reaction to the economic downturn of the 1970s. As prices of everything rose, congregations would have more reason to hold on to their old hymnals, buying replacement copies as needed. Small, cheap paperbacks once again became the best means of getting new music into the hands of church members.

The last major hymnal by Firm Foundation was Hymns of Praise (1978). Reuel Lemmons served again as editor-in-chief, with another large panel of associate editors, including several well-known names: Holland Boring, Sr., Paul Epps, Bobby Connel, Bill Cox, Tom Chapin, and Holland Boring, Jr. All of these were faculty of the Foundation School of Music.("FSCM History")

Holland Boring Jr. (1930-1997) was brought up in singing schools, naturally, and became a widely known song leader and teacher in Texas. In addition to full-time pulpit preaching he often held ministry positions that combined song leading with another area of service, such as youth ministry or directing the Bible school program. The father-and-son team taught together in the Texas Normal Singing School with Austin Taylor, then in their new project, the Foundation School of Music.(Finley, 78ff.) The elder Boring passed the directorship over to his son sometime after the mid-1980s.("FSCM History," also see FSCM flyer) Holland Boring Jr.'s tenure was sadly cut short by his 1997 death from a brain tumor, at the age of 66.(Walker, "I ask the prayers") His father passed away in 2000.

Paul H. Epps (1914-2002) was a native of Arkansas, but might better be described as an "Arklatexan," living the majority of his life in the bordering states of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas. He was a full-time preacher, but like Holland Boring Jr. also held positions combining song leading with other ministry duties. In addition to teaching at the Foundation School, Epps co-taught singing schools with Lloyd O. Sanderson.(Finley, 185ff.) Some of his better-known songs are "Jesus knows and cares" and "God in His mercy." Bob Connel is still on the faculty of the Foundation School of Church Music, and still active in presenting singing seminars at congregations. Until recently he was editor of Christian Bible Teacher, and he is a well-known preacher.("Sermons," Abilene Reporter-News) In addition to teaching at the Foundation School, he was one of the original faculty of the Haskell Singing School,(Ellsworth) and taught there as recently as 2006.(Reed)

Bill Clyde Cox (b. 1931) was the only member of this editorial group who was not a minister. He was a masonry contractor, whose love of the Lord and interest in poetry and song led him to a fruitful avocation in church music. He studied composition under Holland Boring, Sr., with whom he co-edited Gems for His Crown in 1977. Cox was particularly concerned that new songs continue to be introduced to the churches, especially from songwriters within the Churches of Christ.(Finley, 127; 130) Tom Chapin (b. 1950) graduated from West Texas State University in 1974 with a music degree, and that summer took the directorship of the Haskell Singing School.(Ellsworth) He is still there, nearly 40 years later. Given the longevity of the tenures of these singing school teachers, there must be something intrinsically healthy about summer singing schools in the Texas heat! Chapin has been particularly successful in taking contemporary Christian songs with instrumental accompaniments and arranging them for four-part a cappella singing; several of his arrangements are in Praise for the Lord.

The book that these men produced for Firm Foundation, Hymns of Praise, is an impressive effort--at 753 hymns, it was by far the largest hymnal the publisher ever issued. But it did not stay in print long, and certainly did not enjoy the success of the earlier Majestic Hymnal.(Walker, "Hymnbooks") There are a number of reasons that one hymnal succeeds and another does not, but I think this was a simple case of a changed marketplace. When Majestic Hymnal first appeared in 1953, it had two primary competitors--Jorgenson's Great Songs of the Church no. 2 and Sanderson's Christian Hymns no. 2. By the time the improved 1959 Majestic Hymnal no. 2 appeared, Christian Hymns no. 2 was more than 10 years old; Great Songs of the Church no. 2, of course, was still essentially unchanged from its pre-war form. The only new competitor to take the field since 1953 was Ellis Crum's Sacred Selections (1956), which likely had not yet gained enough traction to be a major factor. Majestic Hymnal no. 2 was in an ideal position to build on earlier successes, and did so.

But by 1978, nearly two decades later, things were different. Abilene Christian University, having bought the copyright to Great Songs of the Church from Elmer Jorgenson, had updated this old classic with a supplement of 70 well-chosen hymns. Sanderson had brought out Christian Hymns III in 1966. Sacred Selections, with its much higher percentage of "quartet-style" gospel songs, had caught on across the southern and western states and had been recently updated. In 1971, Alton Howard published Songs of the Church, and followed this up with a slightly revised edition in 1977; his books also contained a good share of songs in the southern gospel style. It was a much more crowded field, and Hymns of Praise was competing with already established hymnals that appealed to the very same segment of the market.


Typesetters at Firm Foundation, 27 August 1946
Austin History Center via Portal to Texas History
After Buster Dobbs replaced Reuel Lemmons as editor of Firm Foundation in 1983, there were no further hymnal publications. This is not surprising; the Gospel Advocate Company, which had published hymnals since the late 19th century, produced no more after Christian Hymns III in 1966. Richard Hughes observed that the last few decades of the 20th century saw the waning of the era in which two or three religious journals were read almost universally among the Churches of Christ in the U.S.; the rise of many smaller papers diffused the influence of the editors of major papers.(Hughes, 214) Add to this the boom of self-publishing via the Internet, and it is easy to see how fragmented the readership has become. It may be that no one journal wields enough influence to make a new hymnal succeed. Since the last two decades of the 20th century, hymnal publishing among Churches of Christ has largely been the domain of single-editor efforts, sometimes connected with a larger publishing house (Howard Publishing or ACU Press for example) but usually not with a religious journal.

There is also the fact that the amateur gospel singing culture, which supported Firm Foundation's early boom in paperpack songbooks, no longer exists to the extent it once did. In addition, the regrettable and unnecessary antagonism that exists between some proponents of traditional church music and some proponents of contemporary church music has divided the efforts of those who should instead be working together to promote our worship in song. What the future of hymnal publishing may be is uncertain; as digital projection becomes more common, the entire concept of "hymnal" may change. But perhaps the ready availability of desktop music publishing, and the easy integration of new songs into a congregation's available repertoire via PowerPoint, will lead to a new era of collaboration in songwriting and publishing such as existed in the past.


Crawford, T. Wesley. "Firm Foundation." The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2004.

Finley, Gene C., ed. Our Garden of Song. West Monroe, La.: Howard Publishing, 1980.

Goff, James R. Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel Music. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Harrell, David Edwin. "Noninstitutional movement." The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2004.

McCann, Forrest. "A History of Great Songs of the Church." Restoration Quarterly 38/4 (1996), 219-228.

Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3: Musical Compositions. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1907.

Harp, Scott. "J. S. Dunn." The Restoration Movement.,js.htm

Harp, Scott. "F. L. Eiland." The Restoration Movement.

"Emmett Sydney Dean." Cyberhymnal.

Rone, Wendell H. A History of the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Kentucky,
Owensboro, Kentucky: Messenger Job Printing Co., 1944.

Harp, Scott. "George Henry Pryor Showalter." The Restoration Movement.

Hooper, Robert E. A Distinct People. West Monroe, Louisiana: Howard Publishing, 1993.

Harp, Scott. "Tillit Sydney Teddlie." The Restoration Movement.,ts.htm

Walker, Wayne S. "In that home of the soul." Hymn Studies.

Walker, Wayne S. "A history of our hymnbooks." Faith and Facts October 1999.

Walker, Wayne S. "Just over in the glory land." Hymn Studies.

Furr, Edgar. "Texas Normal Singing School." Gospel Guardian 5/38 (4 February 1954)

Obituaries. Christian Chronicle July 2002.

"Marvin Rowland to speak Sunday in Church of Christ." News Herald (Del Rio, Texas) 1 December 1961, p. 3A.

"Five additions are reported in Hawley revival to present." Optimist (Abilene, Texas) 16/38 (11 July 1929)

"Franklin Roberts."

Miller, Bonnie, et al.Navigating the Mighty Columbia: Columbia Christian College, a Comprehensive History, a Collaborative Work of Love. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Oklahoma Christian University, 2009.

Owens, Joel. "A history of the Pecos River Family Encampment."

Walker, Wayne S. "I ask the prayers of those I love." Hymn Studies.

"FSCM History." Foundation School of Church Music, 2006.

Boring, Holland L., Sr. "We need more singing schools." Gospel Guardian 19/47 (4 April 1968), p. 9b-10.

Flyer advertising Foundation School of Church Music. Center for Restoration Studies at Abilene Christian University.

"Sermons." Abilene Reporter-News 26 May 2011.

Reed, Jerry Daniel. "Scores gather in Haskell." Abilene Reporter-News 11 July 2006.

Ellsworth, Ken. "Singing in Haskell." Abilene Reporter-News 14 July 2000.

Hughes, Richard T. "Churches of Christ." Encyclopedia of Religion in the South. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2005.


  1. This was one of the most enjoyable papers that I have read in a long time. I am an instructor at the successor to the Texas Normal Singing School-- The Singing School at Abilene Christian University. Especially interesting were the discussions about Austin Taylor and Edgar Furr, who I never had a chance to meet.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jim Fletcher

    1. Jim, thanks for reading, and for your kind words. I was getting ready to do the post on Taylor's "Closer to Thee" and realized I didn't know much about him at all. It's really moving to see how hard these people worked at building up the churches; makes me embarrassed I don't do more!

  2. I have changed the date of the earlier Select Songs from c. 1912 to 1913, based on the date of Frank Grammer's copyright on "Dew of Mercy" published in this book.;seq=663

  3. David...

    Excellent (!) treatment of a much-needed historical theme. The comment from Jim Fletcher (above) reminded me of the one time I met Edgar Furr. He was holding a gospel meeting at (IIRC) the Southside church in Hobbs NM (c. 1972-3?)--quite elderly at the time, as I remember, at least from my youthful perspective at that time--and had cloth charts all around the assembly hall. He would say, "That reminds me of another point..." and he would walk across the hall to point to another chart, then say, "And, while we are on that point, consider the importance of this..." and he would walk to the front, or the other side. Three or four times in a sermon, he would reference hymns and sing a phrase or two, eg. "A lot of people are sitting in church buildings singing, (and he would sing) 'Oh, how I love Jesus...' but are not living their lives as though they love him. We had a very pleasant discussion each of the two or three evenings we heard him speak.

    Wow. The water that has flowed under that bridge...

    Royce Bell
    San Bernardino CA

    1. Royce,

      Thanks for reading! There is a big collection of cloth charts in the archives at Lipscomb University, if you are ever in Nashville. Old-school PowerPoint!

      God bless, David

  4. I'm trying to contact Firm Foundation Publishing, but am having no luck at all. Have they gone out of business?

    Elayne in Oklahoma

    1. Elayne, good to hear from you. Tamie Willis, librarian at Oklahoma Christian University, said that FF ceased publication in 2010.!topic/stone-campbell/8qZW4ySw-9I

      Please note that I do not endorse all of the opinions given by other commenters in that discussion! :-)

      Here is the last capture of the FF website at the Internet Archive:

      It seems I heard that someone was going to buy FF and relaunch, but I don't know the details. It was a few years ago. Sorry I don't have better news. God bless, David

    2. Elayne,

      As usual I spoke too soon. There is a Firm Foundation web-journ .al now at . It continues the volume numbering of the older journal.