Looking forward to the day that we fly away

Published 7:30 am Sunday, August 27, 2023

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On a cotton farm in Spiro, Oklahoma, a little boy named Albert was born in 1905. From those humble beginnings, he grew up to write some of the well-known hymns we sing today.

Undoubtedly, Albert had a love for music from an early age. His sharecropper parents raised him in musical and religious home. As a young person, he attended Hartford Musical Institute in Hartford, Arkansas, and sang with the Hartford Quartet.

Later, Albert taught “singing schools” in small towns around the Ozarks. During one of the singing schools held in Powell, Missouri, he met his wife-to-be, Goldie Schell. They were married in 1931 and continued to live in her hometown.

Albert worked in his father-in-law’s general store for a dollar a day. The couple raised their six children there – five sons and a daughter. He also learned to tune pianos.

For a number of years, he tried his hand at songwriting, but mostly for his own musical enjoyment. Goldie encouraged him to try to get his songs published – reminding him of the one he’d written in 1929.

He mailed it to the Hartford Music Company on a hot afternoon in July 1931 and sure enough they published the song in the hymnbook, “The Wonderful Message.” His song began to receive national recognition, with many other publishers asking permission to include it in their church hymnals.

The Hartford Music Company hired Albert as a staff writer for $12.50 a month. His songwriting career spanned 34 years and he penned more than 600 Gospel songs. He also worked for Stamps/Baxter Music and eventually formed his own company.

It’s been estimated that Albert Brumley’s songs have been printed 15 million times in sheet music, hymnals, and songbooks. He wrote such well-known classics as, “Jesus, Hold My Hand,” “I’ll Meet You In the Morning,” “He Set Me Free,” and “Turn Your Radio On.”

Artists who’ve recorded his songs include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, the Chuck Wagon Gang, and the Blackwood Brothers. The very first song he sold became the most recorded Gospel song in history.

The inspiration for the song came to him while he was picking cotton and singing a popular song of 1929, “If I Had The Wings Of An Angel.” Suddenly, Albert began to daydream about flying away.  Like the thoughts behind many of his songs, the lyrics were based on his own deep spiritual convictions.

Christians have the promise that when we leave our earthly, physical bodies we are “present with the Lord,” in our heavenly home (2 Corinthians 5:8). Maybe that verse came to Albert Brumley’s mind when he wrote, “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away; To a home on God’s celestial shore.  I’ll fly away.  When the shadows of this life have gone, I’ll fly away; Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away….I’ll fly away O glory, I’ll fly away, When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I’ll fly away.”

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”