By Robert M. Marovich
JGM was saddened to learn of the transition of Bishop Claude Odell Timmons, a gospel music artist and religious leader.
Born in Chicago to southern migrant parents, Timmons attended Dunbar High School and initially joined Chicago’s Greater Harvest Baptist Church. He later shifted his association to Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, also on the city’s South Side. While there, he joined the Duncanaires, a gospel group comprised of other Roberts Temple youth, including Dolores “Honey” Sykes and Loretta Oliver.
Around 1957, James Cleveland heard Timmons sing at Roberts Temple and invited him to attend a rehearsal for a group he was assembling called the Gospel Chimes. Initial members of the Chimes besides Cleveland and Timmons were Dorothy Norwood, Lee Charles Neely, Imogene Greene, and Jessy Dixon. The group, which sang in the piano- and organ-led style of the Alex Bradford Singers, recorded by themselves and with Cleveland for HOB, Savoy, and Atlantic Records. Among the Gospel Chimes’ most popular songs were “He’s Sweeter than the Day Before,” “God Can Do Anything But Fail,” and “What a Mighty God.”
The troupe appeared at the storied Apollo Theater on a number of occasions. “We had very good harmony,” Timmons told me during an interview for The King of Gospel Music. “James put the harmonies together, and when he left, Jessy would handle the harmony. We supported one another. Nobody was ever off.” Timmons also sang for a spell with Elder Arlester Washington and the Chicago Gospel Cavaliers.
Timmons maintained a spot in the Gospel Chimes until around 1967 or 1968, when he finally tired of touring. “We drove everywhere,” he said. “I came home and got a job because I couldn’t make it with what we were getting on the road. It wasn’t that much, maybe $100 a piece singing on the road. Food, hotel bills, we had to pay our part of the hotel bills. After you got done, you really didn’t have nothing left. I didn’t too much care for that.”
When Timmons returned to Chicago, he joined Apostle Richard D. Henton’s then relatively-new Monument of Faith Evangelistic Church, and spent 22 years working for Chicago’s Pritzker Family. That included serving as chauffeur for family patriarch A.N. Pritzker. All the while, Timmons sang and served at Monument of Faith, and cut recordings with the church’s choir. Many recall fondly Timmons’ magisterial rendition of “Christ is the Answer.”
Timmons received the call to ministry in 1985. “I was driving one day and the spirit of the Lord spoke to me and told me He wanted me to pastor, to study His word. I did so, and in 1985, I started Love Cathedral Community Church.” He was named Bishop in 1993.
“Bishop Timmons didn’t know any strangers,” said Shantel Taylor, a member of Now Faith Worship Center, a Lexington, Kentucky, church in Timmons’ jurisdiction and formerly pastored by the late Elder Arlester Washington. “He loved God and he loved people. He truly will be missed.”
AUG 18. 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM (CT)
Love Cathedral Community Church
5112 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60609