Gone Home on the Wings of a Dove: Leon Lumpkins

Thanks to Bob Laughton and Revs. Stefanie Minatee and Lawrence Roberts for alerting TBGB about this sad news:

Writes Rev. Minatee:

Just wanted to inform you that Gospel Music Legend, Leon Lumpkins, founder of The Gospel Clefs, passed away.

His wake is tomorrow (10/17) from 1-9pm at the Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark, NJ.

His funeral will be held on Thursday, October 18th at 11 am, at Greater Abyssinian.

Here is Professor Lumpkins’ obituary from the October 16, 2007 Star-Ledger:

LUMPKINS Leon Funeral home musical director, 73

Prof. Leon Lumpkins, 73, of East Orange died on Oct. 14, 2007. Services will be held on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007, at 11 a.m. at the Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church, 88 Lyons Ave., Newark. Viewing is Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007, from 1 to 9 p.m. at church. Interment is in Graceland Memorial Park, Kenilworth. Send condolences to perryfuneralhome.com.

Born on April 26, 1934, in Newark, Prof. Lumpkins lived in East Orange. He was the founder of the musical group The Gospel Clefs. He was also the musical director for Perry Funeral Home for over 20 years and for numerous churches in the Metropolitan area. Prof. Lumpkins leaves to mourn, a devoted son, DaRon Lumpkins; daughter-in-law, Rachel Lumpkins; two grandchildren, Arielle Lumpkins and Nile Lumpkins; one nephew, Keith Lumpkins, and a host of other relatives and friends.
From TBGB:

During its long tenure, the Gospel Clefs of Newark, NJ recorded many songs that became gospel standards, including the smash hits “Wings of a Dove” and “Open Our Eyes.” The latter was later covered by Earth Wind & Fire, and stands as one of the top gospel recordings of all time. Many of the Gospel Clefs’ songs were composed by Leon Lumpkins, the founder, leader, and manager of the group. Professor Lumpkins will be sorely missed for his lyricism, creativity, and passion for gospel music.

About Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.


  1. I can recall the time when Promotor Mark Richardson sponsored a great gospel concert in Norfolk Virginia consisting of Leon Lumpkins and the Gospel Cleffs, and Clara Ward and Mother Gertrude Ward and the World Famous Wards Singers, and Viola Carey and the Wonderful Seven Seals Singers of Newport News, Virginia and other fine gospel groups.
    Professor Leon Lumpkins is greatly missed. Dr. James I Hicks, D. D. and the Wonferful Seven Seals Singers agree that he has gone home on the Wings of a Dove.

  2. Dr. Hicks, thank you for your warm memories of the Golden Age of Gospel Music. That must have been quite a program!

  3. Greetings I am David Cook, I just want to take time out to say thank you for having this page, Prof. Lumpkins was my Mentor,my Teacher, but most of all my friend. I sing today because of him, he gave me my first solo,at the age of 6. When I became an adult he allowed me the honor of being a member of a latter incarnation of the Gospel Clefts and the even greater honor of lead on the song “Open our eyes”
    I will for ever be greatful to him for teaching me how to sing(smile)the greatest instrument is useless
    until you learn how to play it.
    Until we meet again
    Rest in peace Leon
    David Cook

    • Praise the Lord, my name is Vince Drayton. I unfortunately found out after the interment of Prof. Lumpkins that he’d passed, but as my brother David so eloquently stated he was a great mentor… melodically, intonation, rhythmically, phrasing, styles of music, overall musicianship… even just plain how to find and hold the groove. His influence was beyond foundational. I served as drummer for the MAZ and all the church choirs at Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church where I grew up until moving to California for college at 19. I also played with the Gospel Clefs during those years. He was a stickler for perfection, and taught me great dedication to my craft in my observations of that. He even commented once, long before DAW’s “synthesizers are nothing but toys. Pianos, real music/feel, and the ability to truly play are what matter. ” Seeing what music has devolved into he was right. Truly both he, and his disappearing quality, are already missed. Thank you for Mr. Lumpkins. God bless.

  4. David, thank you for your memories of Prof. Lumpkins. I’m sure it was a great honor indeed to sing his magnum opus, “Open Our Eyes!” I hope someday that the Gospel Clefs music is reissued so more individuals can hear what a remarkable group it has been.

  5. Hi, I am one of Mr. Lumpkins child that he raised and profected in to being what it takes in life. Even in his gloomiest days he always make it shine caue he was that type of person. Love but never for gotten.MAZ at GABC, Leon only knows how amazing no GOD knows he is amazing in life.

  6. Well, Well the great one has gone on. An my special moments with Mr. Lumpkins I will always keep close to my heart, cause he instill in me the true ways an era in life from a child up until adulthood. Perfection is the key “Use it or Loose it” (smile). Time waits for no one. He will be so dearly missed but never forgotten.

  7. Professor Lumpkins has left a beautiful legacy of music that have inspired. He made a great contribution to gospel music. I also love the small amount of secular music he recorded as Charles Farren. Greg B

  8. Mr. Lumpkins was my choir/chorus director when I attended St. Philips Academy in Newark. He was a very stern, but undeniably talented man & is very much the reason why I still sing to this day. I’ll never forget the first time he belted out “God Rest Ye” and “Mary Did You Know.” I’ll never forget our trips to sing as a chorus either. Rest In Peace, Mr. Lumpkins!

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