November 7, 2008
A Tribute to Dr. L. Gene Black
Mark Ray ‘84 returned to Samford for Homecoming 2008, joining other A Capella Choir alumni in honoring former choir director Gene Black. Afterward, he shared with The Belltower highlights and lessons of his experiences with Black.
Two brief recollections of my time spent as a member of the Samford University A Cappella Choir stand out above all others. Both were unassuming moments that remain powerful to this day. The first occurred during a routine rehearsal one afternoon, as we mechanically waded through the haunting lyrics and melody of an old Appalachian folk tune, Morning Trumpet:
Oh when shall I see Jesus
And reign with Him above,
And shall hear the trumpet sound
In that morning…
At one point Dr. Black suddenly stopped conducting and said something to this effect: "Choir, you probably don't think very much about the impact of these words right now. But I suspect by the time you and I reach the age of my little Mama back in Decatur (his home town, and mine), they will have taken on a whole new meaning. To folks like her, heaven becomes more imminent, precious, and real with each passing day."
A second recollection took place during the closing moments of my college graduation ceremony. Whereas most of our class was seated in the audience, I was on stage with the A Cappella Choir. Four unforgettable whirlwind years were drawing to a close.
I have no idea what the commencement speaker said, but a closing snapshot of that event is forever frozen in time, indelibly ingrained within the storehouse of my memory.
Immediately following the benediction, I stood with the A Cappella Choir - quite literally my final day, hour, and moment as a Samford student - and sang:
The Lord bless you and keep you,
The Lord make His face to shine upon you,
And be gracious unto you,
And give you peace.
Having a chance to return to Samford with other choir alumni this Homecoming weekend was a rare treat. Indeed, it was joy unspeakable. We honored Dr. and Mrs. Gene Black for thirty-five years of service to the Kingdom of God, not just collectively but also each of our lives individually. Amidst such experiences, clouds of war, national upheaval, or even our own personal distress begin to fade. Heaven becomes more imminent, precious, and real as we begin to catch a mere glimpse of it. For many decades, L. Gene Black has inspired people around the world to do just that.
We shall remain forever grateful.