Connie Hopper of Madison, N.C. attended her induction into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame at Dollywood recently in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
â€œConnie Hopper is considered by many to be the keystone of the famous singing family, the Hoppers,â€ said Charlie Waller, SGMA executive director. â€œHer sensitivity to audiences has caused her to become a household name and a favorite among gospel music lovers everywhere. Connie was voted Queen of Gospel Music by the Singing News for two consecutive years, Favorite Alto in 1998, 1999, 2000 and Person of the Year in 2005.
He said she was voted Gospel Musicâ€™s Female Vocalist of the Year by the Peopleâ€™s Choice Awards.
â€œShe was presented the Marvin Norcross Award in 1998,â€ he said. â€œThis award is presented for excellence in devotion to family, service to church and contributions to the gospel music industry. Connie received an associate in arts degree in May 2003 from Oakland City University in Oakland City, Ind. She also received her honorary degree of doctor of music from Oakland City, Ind. in May 1999.
â€œConnieâ€™s sincerity is projected both on and off stage,â€ he said. â€œShe has become a role model for young ladies who are entering the realm of gospel music. Her warmth, charm and genuine faith in God have become her hallmark.
She is author of a testimonial book titled â€˜The Peace That Passeth Understandingâ€™ which relates to her bout with cancer and Godâ€™s divine intervention.
â€œHer most recent writing is a daily devotional book of inspiration entitled â€˜Heart of The Matterâ€™ in which she shares some of the deep spiritual matters concerning Christians today,â€ he said. â€œConnie has also penned more than fifty gospel songs.â€
Hopper accepted her induction presented by SGMA Hall of Fame member Maurice Templeton.
The Whisnants sang â€œIâ€™ll Pray For Youâ€ in honor of her induction.
â€œI am a fan of gospel music,â€ she said. â€œAs Claude told you I joined the Hopper Brothers in 1958. I was driving my daddyâ€™s car going through our little town of Madison. I had stopped for the red light. Back then we just had green and red.
â€œHe was standing on the corner begging alms,â€ she joked. â€œHe actually worked for the A&P delivering groceries. He tapped on my window.Â He didnâ€™t say, â€˜hello.â€™ He didnâ€™t say, â€˜how are you.â€™ He said â€˜My brothers and I have started a gospel group and I was wondering if you would play the piano for us.â€™ I said, â€˜I will have to think about it.â€™ The light changed to green and I said â€˜yes,â€™ and thatâ€™s been 52 years ago.â€
Hopper said she had worked with many of the honorees and those seen in musical clips shown at the event.
â€œI know those people better than I know some of the young people that are here,â€ she said. â€œBut I wouldnâ€™t take anything for the heritage of gospel music. We have traveled 50 years. I wouldnâ€™t take anything for the music. I love the music.
â€œI loved the music since I was five years old and my daddy turned on that old radio on top of the refrigerator in our farm house,â€ she said. â€œAfter I started playing the piano for the Hopper Brothers, I realized the power and the message in the music. It transforms peopleâ€™s lives and brings them into a presence where they come to know Jesus Christ as their personal savior.â€
She thanked Claude – her husband of 49 years.
â€œI couldnâ€™t do without him,â€ he said. â€œI wouldnâ€™t take anything for my life in gospel music. I want to thanks to the SGMA for this award. I often thought I should be sitting out there. I have admired so many who have sung this music.
â€œThe 11th chapter of Hebrews talks about a heavenâ€™s hall of fame,â€ she said. â€œThat is the one we have to strive for. One day we are going to watch them march by and we are going to say â€“ â€˜How did you get hereâ€™ and they are going to say â€˜I came through the blood.â€™ That is the way we are going. Thank you and God bless you.â€
The other 2010 SGMA class of Hall of Fame inductees are Danny Gaither, Little Jan Buckner-Goff, and Sam Goodman, Bill Hefner and Arthur Smith.
Country Music Hall of Famer Dolly Parton received the James D. Vaughn Impact Award at the event.
The Southern Gospel Music Association is a non-profit organization that maintains the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame, the only facility honoring this genre of music, for the historic preservation of the accomplishments of the music and its people. Museum hours match those of Dollywood. Donations are tax-deductible. Individuals and businesses may donate to assist with honoring inductees with special bronze plaques that are displayed in the Hall of Fame. For more information about the museum or its inductees, visit www.sgma.org.