SC Hall of Fame announces 2011 inductees

William 'Singing Billy' Walker and Carlisle Floyd were inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame Monday. Walker was an American Baptist song leader and a creator of music shape notes. Floyd, is a notable composer and librettist of opera in the United States Monday.

Both the deceased and contemporary inductees were honored during a formal ceremony on Monday, March 28 at 10:30 a.m. at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, where the official S.C. Hall of Fame is located.

William "Singing Billy" Walker (1809-1875) is a native of Martin's Mills, S.C. where he was nicknamed Singing Billy to distinguish him from other William Walkers in Spartanburg. Walker published several tune books including "The Southern Harmony," "The Southern and Western Pocket Harmonist" and "Christian Harmony."

His great-great-great grandson, Mac Campbell was honored to present the tribute for Walker. "The lasting legacy of 'Singing Billy' Walker, is he is the author who put the music and the words of Amazing Grace together and that is something that, I can't think of any vigil in our history where that song wasn't at least one of the things considered to bring solace to people in a time of grief, or joy to them in a moment of reflection," Campbell said.

Walker borrowed lyrics from recognized poets such as Charles Wesley, and added a treble (upper) part and a bass to the tune to create a three-part harmony. His arrangements and compositions are commonly sung today by Sacred Harp singers and others. According to the collated minutes kept by the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association, his song "Hallelujah" is sung at Sacred Harp conventions more than any other.

"The thing that's interesting about his legacy, as with 'Amazing Grace' and other tunes, is he took tunes from parts of South Carolina and brought them into the main stream. People wouldn't know 'Amazing Grace' if 'Singing Billy' Walker hadn't taken John Newton's poem and put it to the music that we all know today," Campbell added.

Carlisle Floyd spoke during Monday's ceremony. "It's a unique honor and it's a once in a once in a lifetime honor and there aren't many honors like that around. I think it's a huge honor to be part of a select group like this," Floyd said. Born in 1926, Floyd is a native of Latta, S.C. He is the son of a Methodist minister who enjoyed drawing and playing the piano while growing up. He followed his passion of music to Syracuse University where he received both a B.M. and M.M. in piano and composition. During that time he also wrote several one-act plays. He later went on to teach at Florida State University before becoming a professor of music at the University of Houston. Floyd completed his opera "Susannah" that first premiered at Florida State in 1955 and later performed at the New York City Opera in 1956.

"This far exceeds any expectations I've ever had. After all, I began doing this when I was in my 20s. After my opera was first done in New York, and my career was launched, that in itself made it seem all worthwhile," Carlisle Floyd, who spoke at Monday's ceremony, said.

Floyd's "Susannah" is compared to the anti-communist rhetoric issued by then Sen. Joseph McCarthy. It won the New York Music Critics' Circle Award before entering the Brussels World Fair in 1958. Since then, the production has been delivered more than 800 times. Floyd has produced succeeding operas including "Wuthering Heights," "The Passion of Jonathan Wade," "Of Mice and Men," "Bilby's Doll," "Willie Stark," and the more recent "Cold Sassy Tree."

Prior to the induction ceremony, the South Carolina Hall of Fame and South Carolina ETV announced a new partnership between the two organizations. Over the next five years, South Carolina ETV will produce a historical documentary on each of the 81 people honored in the S.C. Hall of Fame. The first documentary will highlight the life of Dr. Walter Edgar.

The South Carolina Hall of Fame, dedicated Feb. 11, 1973 by Gov. John C. West, was created to recognize and honor those contemporary and past citizens who have made outstanding contributions to South Carolina's heritage and progress. On Sept. 21, 2001, Gov. Jim Hodges signed into law a bill designating the South Carolina Hall of Fame as the state's official Hall of Fame.