Yesterday morning (May 18, 2009), Southern Gospel legend Eva Mae LeFevre passed away at age 91. Her website has this announcement:
Eva Mae LeFevre passed away at 7:25 a.m. on Monday, May 18, 2009, at age 91. She had been hospitalized in April for pneumonia at which time doctors also discovered a fractured hip. …
Known as the First Lady of Gospel Music, Eva Mae LeFevre became the first living woman to be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1978. Ten years later, she was the first gospel music inductee into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Eva Mae first began singing and playing the piano as a young child at her father’s church in South Carolina. In 1934, she married Urias LeFevre and began a 40 year journey leading The Lefevres, which became one of the most beloved groups in gospel music history. Eva Mae’s trademark alto voice and piano artistry became a defining influence for the LeFevres. The group became staples on WGST radio, based out of their hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. They later pioneered a gospel music television program, The Gospel Singing Caravan, while touring as many as 100,000 miles a year across North America.
After attempting to retire years ago, Eva Mae could never walk away from her love for gospel music. She continued to delight audiences across North America throughout her twilight years, both through Gaither Homecoming appearances and solo concerts. Today, she has joined her husband in eternity. Her spirit, her dignity, that flawless alto voice and contagious laugh, her quick sense of humor and unshakable faith in Christ was an inspiration to us all. She will be sorely missed.
One thing the press release didn’t cover was her role in starting the Homecomings off; she was the one Bill Gaither called to the piano for the spontaneous sing-a-long that ended up becoming the first Gaither Homecoming video.
She was one of a very few people in any genre to stay on the road performing for seventy years, and was one of the last if not the last surviving members of a well-known 1930s pre-WWII Southern Gospel group.
Funeral arrangements are on her website.