Pikeville in Bledsoe County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
Born on a farm near Pikeville, Tennessee, on Jan. 15, 1876, and raised in New Harmony, Winsett experienced a religious awakening at age 7 and began writing hymns. Proficient on several instruments and gifted at writing harmony parts, he reportedly graduated from the Bowman Normal School of Music in Arkansas in January 1899. Afterward, he studied at the Southern Normal Conservatory of Music.
In 1903, based in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Winsett published his first hymnal, Winsett's Favorite Melodies. His 1908 collection, Songs of Pentecostal Power, became his first widely distributed hymnal. Winsett's work appealed to Baptist, Holiness and Pentecostal congregations in the Southeast, and was especially popular with Church of God congregations
Shortly after Winsett married for the first time in 1908, he moved his base of operations from Arkansas to Chattanooga. In Arkansas, he ran singing schools, camp meetings and taught music. In Chattanooga, he focused increasingly on publishing. After a short return to Fort Smith, Arkansas, he brought his family back to Chattanooga for the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial” (a Dayton, Tennessee, teacher was prosecuted for teaching the theory of evolution, contrary to then-current Tennessee law). Winsett opposed the teaching of evolution and wanted to support the creationist cause firsthand. He relocated his business to Chattanooga and then, as of January 1929, to Dayton. By then his first wife had died, leaving him with six children in his care. He moved his family to a farm in Graysville, southeast of Dayton, and ran the publishing business from the Gem City Opera House Building on Dayton's Main Street.
Most years, Winsett published one or two hymnals. Some hymns were original; some were works by other gospel publishers used under reciprocal agreements, and some were adaptations of traditional pleces. Most of Winsett's sales were to churches, for whom he would customize the binding.
In 1930, Winsett remarried and had three more children. In 1940, he and his family moved to Market Street in Dayton. Winsett began tailoring his hymnals to specific audiences, including children and service members. In 1951, he published Best of All, generally considered one of the top-selling hymnals of all time. Winsett reported first-year sales of 600,000 copies.
R.E. Winsett died on June 26, 1952, His best-known hymn, "Jesus Is Coming Soon,” was recorded by several artists, including the Oak Ridge Boys, and became the Song of the Year at the first Gospel Music Association Dove awards in 1969. Winsett was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2002.
Erected by Tennessee Music Pathways.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, Music • Churches & Religion • Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Tennessee Music Pathways series list. A significant historical date for this entry is January 15, 1876.
Location. 35° 36.315′ N, 85° 11.352′ W. Marker is in Pikeville, Tennessee, in Bledsoe County. Marker is on Main Street (State Highway 28) just north of East Church Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3089 Main St, Pikeville TN 37367, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Bledsoe County Veterans Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Bledsoe County (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Pikeville During the Civil War (about 300 feet away); Dr. James A. Ross House (about 400 feet away); Bledsoe County Jail (about 400 feet away); John Bridgman House (about 500 feet away); James Beriah Frazier (about 600 feet away); Gov. James B. Frazier (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pikeville.
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Caption Top right: R.E. Winsett in 1942. Photos from collections of the Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 28, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 27, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 171 times since then and 67 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 27, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.