Dr. Helen Stephens, Gospel Workshop Executive, Choir Organizer, Dies

OAKLAND, Calif. (May 4, 2014) – Dr. Helen James Haynes Stephens passed away peacefully, the evening of Saturday, May 3, 2014 at 10:30 p.m. under the care of hospice.
Statement from the Family:
“The Stephens Family wishes to thank everyone for their outpouring of love and prayers. Her passion was more than vocation – she used her gifts to their full potential, and as a result, her trailblazing contributions are forever etched in Gospel Music’s timeline. We ask for your continued prayers during this difficult time.”

A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Lady Stephens’ early musical instruction began at the age of 4, later accepting her first pianist position at 13 years old. After completing her degree at Dillard University in 1949, Helen married Arnold E. Stephens (1927-2009) in 1950 and shortly thereafter moved to California in 1953.
In 1965, she organized the “Stephens Singers,” and later organized the “The Voices of Christ” of Berkeley, California in 1969 with 23 members, which later grew to include 92 members the following year. Additionally, in 1979, Stephens founded “The Lighthouse Singers,” an interdenominational community-based gospel choir in Marin County, California. Lady Stephens traveled nationally with the late Rev. James Cleveland, and is most notably known as the organizer and long-serving Chapter Representative of the Northern California Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA), officially retiring in 2013. At the time of her passing, Lady Stephens remained an Emeritus member of the GMWA National Board of Directors.
She is survived by her children Reginold Stephens, Rene Stephens, and Rosalyn Stephens; 6 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.
Condolences can be sent to: The Stephens Family, 4968 Buckboard Way, El Sobrante, CA 94803. 

OAKLAND, Calif. (May 8, 2014) – The Celebration of Live Homegoing Service for Gospel Great, Dr. Helen J.H. Stephens will take place on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, at 3900 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, CA. The service will begin at 10:00 a.m. and will be officiated by Bishop Gordon A. Humpfrey, Jr., Senior Pastor, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church (Chicago, IL) with the Eulogy delivered by Bishop Albert L. Jamison, Chair, Gospel Music Workshop of America and Senior Pastor, Pleasant Grove Baptist Tabernacle (Brooklyn, NY).


“Jesus said it, as its recorded in Matthew 12:50. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother (NIV).  She was the definition of loyalty, and we at GMWA were blessed by her presence and wisdom. We say that blood is thicker than water, but spirit is thicker than blood.” – Bishop Albert Jamison


Live Streaming of the Celebration of Life Services will be available at www.faithinthebay.com


Musical & Funeral Information Updates:
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
6:00 p.m.
Love Center Ministries
10440 International Blvd., Oakland, CA
Service will conclude with a Parting View


Wednesday, May 14, 2014
9:00 a.m.  – Viewing
10:00 a.m. – Service Time
Beebe Memorial Cathedral, Oakland, CA
Rev. Dr. Charley Hames, Jr., Pastor
Rodena Preston
Dr. Edwin Hawkins
Desmond Pringle
Patrick Bradley
Voices of Christ
Northern California Chapter – GMWA
Helen J. H. Stephens – Young Adult Voices
Lighthouse Singers of Marin County
Arrangements Entrusted to:    
C.P. Bannon Mortuary
6800 International Blvd, Oakland, CA
[510] 632-1011


Public Viewing    
10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. — Monday, May 12, 2014
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. — Tuesday, May 13, 2014

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 was a member of the gospel choir at Cal State Hayward in the early 70’s Will always remember her encouraging us to ‘say the words’ telling us the audience would miss the meaning of the song if we didn’t sing the words clearly
    Rest in Peace . . .

  2. Just heard of her passing! Such a wonderful musician choral director She was the director of the gospel choir at Cal State Hayward Was a stickler for singing sings right!
    Glad my life passed crossed hers Honored