Andrew Jenkins (1885-1957)

Andrew Jenkins
The Reverend Andrew Jenkins of Atlanta was a leading composer of songs popular among southern gospel singers. He has been credited with more than 800 compositions, of which more than two-thirds are sacred songs. Jenkins's best-known gospel song is "God Put a Rainbow in the Cloud" (1931), which has been recorded by numerous singers, including Mahalia Jackson.
Jenkins was born on November 26, 1885, in Jenkinsburg, about thirty miles south of Atlanta. In his infancy a medical error left him with only partial vision. Too blind to function in public schools but not sufficiently impaired to qualify for the state's school for the blind, Jenkins had to rely on his own resources to obtain an education. Later in life, another accident rendered him totally blind.
Jenkins discovered at an early age that he could play by ear almost any musical instrument he could get his hands on. "I never took a lesson," he once said. "It's a God gift."
Licensed to preach at the age of twenty, Jenkins moved to Atlanta, where he supplemented his income as a preacher by selling newspapers on the street. In 1919, after his first wife died, Jenkins married Jane Walden Eskew, a young widow and ordained minister who had three musically talented children—two daughters, Irene and Mary Lee, and a son, T. P. With this marriage a family gospel music act was born.
Five months after Atlanta's radio station WSB first began broadcasting in 1922, the Jenkins family presented their first program over the air. They were among the first gospel music groups to be heard on any radio station. For the next ten years they were a regular feature on WSB. Their repertoire included not only gospel music but also folk, popular, and light classical fare. Radio exposure created a demand for Jenkins's sermons and the family's music. They performed concerts and conducted revivals around the state, and Jenkins served as pastor of several churches. In 1924 the family began a recording career that lasted into the 1930s and introduced their music to thousands of households across the country.
Although Jenkins is best known as a composer of gospel music, his secular songs have also enjoyed considerable popularity through the years and have been frequently recorded by country music artists. His specialty was event songs, or news ballads. Folk music scholars have studied these extensively, because many of them have entered folk tradition. His best-known event songs include "The Death of Floyd Collins" (an account of a cave exploration tragedy), "The Wreck of the Royal Palm" (inspired by a two-train collision at Rockmart, Georgia), "The Fate of Frank Dupre" (the story of an Atlanta robbery/murder), and "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (based on the death of Atlanta resident Ben Dewberry in a 1908 train wreck).
close

Loading

Further Reading
Wayne W. Daniel, "The Rev. Andrew Jenkins Family, Pioneer Gospel Music Artists on Radio and Records," Precious Memories: Journal of Gospel Music 3 (1990).
Cite This Article
Daniel, Wayne W. "Andrew Jenkins (1885-1957)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 07 May 2015. Web. 07 August 2020.
From Our Home Page
Late Victorian Architecture: Overview

Across Georgia, the period from 1895 to 1920 was an era of expansion and growth.

Read more...
Upper Coastal Plain

The Upper Coastal Plain of Georgia is bounded on the north by the fall line and extends south to Florida and east to the upper terraces of th

Read more...
Harriet Powers (1837-1910)

Harriet Powers is one of the best-known southern African American quilt makers, even though only two of her quilts, both of which she made after th

Read more...
Kolomoki Mounds

The Kolomoki Mounds site is one of the largest prehistoric mound complexes in Georgia.

Read more...
Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries