By Robert M. Marovich
Marcel West of Detroit informed JGM of the passing of Mother Ora Watkins-Jones, stalwart lead vocalist for the Southwest Michigan State Choir of the Church of God in Christ, under the direction of Dr. Mattie Moss Clark.
Of a choir with more than 100 members, a few names stood out from the pack. Rose Marie Rimson-Brown. LaBarbara Whitehead. Vanessa Bell Armstrong. The Clark Sisters. Donald Vails. And Ora Watkins-Jones.
Mother Watkins-Jones is perhaps best known for her vocal contribution, with Rimson-Brown (who passed away earlier this year), on the Southwest Michigan State Choir’s first radio hit, 1963’s rousing “I Thank You Lord.” She led a couple of other tracks on the choir’s first Savoy album, including “Saved Hallelujah.” The following year she led “Oh Sinner, You Cannot Hide from God,” and another church-wrecker, “Climbing Up the Mountain,” in 1965. Her work on these songs alone secured her place in gospel music history.
Mother Watkins-Jones was featured in West’s documentary, Detroit: the Gospel Journey and on the Detroit Remembers retrospective CDs released in the 2000s by Sound of Gospel. You can learn more about Mother Watkins-Jones from this interview that Marcel West posted on YouTube today.
JGM extends its heartfelt sympathies to the family, friends, and many fans of a great singer and devoted saint.