About Eva Mae LeFevre

Eva Mae's Story
by Mark Fuller

Eva Mae LeFevre was born in McCall, South Carolina on August 7, 1917 to the home of Reverend and Mrs. H.L. Whittington. At the age of five, Eva Mae began singing at her father's street-corner services. At the age of six, Eva Mae was playing the pump organ at her father's church. She would have to sit on her father's lap to reach the keys while her father would pump the pedals on the organ.

Eva Mae was eight years old when she met Urias and Alphus LeFevre. Urias, age 16, and Alphus had come to her father's church to put on a concert. Urias, speaking of Eva Mae, said, "I have just met my wife". Eight years later, 1934, Urias and Eva Mae married in Greenville, South Carolina at the Tremont Avenue Church of God. Eva Mae then joined Urias and Alphus to form the LeFevre Trio.

In 1939, the LeFevres moved to Atlanta, Georgia and began holding concerts. The admission was a whopping ten cents! They quickly attracted a following and in 1940 were signed by NuGrape and Orange Crush to do a regular radio show on WGST. They were each paid $50 a week. The show drew more than 1,000 fan letters a day and continued on the air for 10 years. During World War II, the LeFevre men went off to proudly serve their country. During this time, Eva Mae sang with the Homeland Harmony Quartet, while also managing the household, and caring for children Pierce, Meurice, and Andrea. When the war was over, the LeFevre Trio was reunited and began traveling throughout the South, performing weekend concerts. It was during this time that Mylon was born to Eva Mae and Urias. It was also during this time that such notables as Jim Waites and Hovie Lister performed with the LeFevres.

By the 1950's, the LeFevres were continuing to gain popularity. In 1954, Eva Mae was named the first Queen of Gospel Music. It was during this time that little Monteia was born to Eva Mae and Urias. Because of her special needs, the LeFevres moved to Philadelphia to seek special medical assistance for her. During these two years, Eva Mae and Urias found employment a church in Philadelphia and had to sell most of their earthly possessions to provide for Monteia's medical treatments. The LeFevres returned to Atlanta in the late 1950's and were joined by such men as Jimmy Jones and Rex Nelon.

The 1960's ushered in a golden era for the LeFevres. Son Pierce joined the group in the early 1960's. Their weekly television program, The Gospel Singing Caravan, made the LeFevres a household name nationwide, as well as other groups such as the Johnson Sisters, the Blue Ridge Quartet and the Prophets. As MC, Eva Mae charmed audiences from coast to coast with her graciousness, her keen wit, her trademark laugh, and her unique and unmistakable piano style. And who can forget Eva Mae convincing audiences the many benefits of using Martha White Flour and S.S.S. Tonic? Later in the 1960's, son Mylon LeFevre began to perform with the group. The New Gospel Singing Caravan, which featured the LeFevres and the Speer Family, was also a huge television success.

1971 was a special year for the LeFevres. In recognition of their golden anniversary, the album Fifty Golden Years was released. The 1970's would also bring many changes to the LeFevres. Urias announced his retirement in 1974, turning over the management of the group to Rex Nelon, and stating he needed to take some time off for hunting and fishing. Some of the individuals who performed with the group in the 1970's included Ron Hutchins, Teresa McNeil, Janet Paschal and Kelly Nelon. In 1976, Alphus LeFevre retired. In May 1977, Eva Mae retired from full time traveling stating she was going to stay home "to see what Urias was hunting and fishing for". It was at that time the LeFevres became the Rex Nelon Singers. In 1978, Eva Mae was given the unique honor as the first living woman ever inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, followed by induction in 1988 into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame - the very first inductee from the Gospel Music field.

The first years for retirement for Eva Mae were not pleasant years for her. Both her mother and Urias passed away in 1979, son Pierce in 1985, grandson Monty in 1987 and Alphus LeFevre shortly thereafter. But through all the sorrow and tears, Eva has demonstrated that through her faith, she has the ability to overcome. Through good times and much sadness, Eva Mae continued to sing and touch the hearts of thousands.

In February 1991, Eva Mae and other Gospel Music legends were contacted by Bill Gaither to join him and the Vocal Band on a recording of "Where Could I Go". After lunch, Eva Mae went to piano and began to play. The other singers soon joined in for a "jam" session. This "jam" session was caught on tape and became the first "Homecoming" video. Bill has stated that Eva Mae's actions on that day sparked the beginning of the Homecoming series.

During the past few years, Eva Mae had undergone more personal suffering. First in the passing of her daughter Andrea, and then her beloved father, H.L. Whittington, who passed away at the age of 103. At the age of 84, Eva Mae underwent triple coronary artery bypass surgery. Amazingly, she came back stronger than ever, traveling the Southeast, and bringing hope and cheer to thousands.

The late J. D. Sumner once said, "The first lady to change the world of Gospel Music was Eva Mae LeFevre . . . Eva Mae was the pioneer and set the standard . . ."

Life didn't get in the way of Eva Mae LeFevre! The sparkle in her eye was still there, the determination was still in her step, and her outlook on life encouraged us all. We can all say that we are better people, and the world a better place, because of Eva Mae LeFevre. She continued to spread hope and cheer along life's pathway, with a hope of better things to come.! Eva Mae was a true "steel magnolia" and certainly without a doubt The First Lady of Gospel Music.

Eva Mae LeFevre died at 7:25 a.m. on Monday, May 18, 2009, at age 91.

Eva Mae: Southern Gospel's longest performing artist

Eva Mae began singing at the age of 4 for her Dad; married Urias LeFevre in 1931; and now she is sharing her unique talents and testimony to a new generation of admirers in 2003.

While most of the true pioneers of Southern Gospel Music have now left the road, Eva Mae LeFevre continues to travel extensively. Eva Mae is regularly watched on many of the Gaither Television Specials, and she is a regular with the Bill Gaither Homecoming Concert Tours.

Eva Mae, along with her accompanist, Mark Fuller continues to bless audiences at their own concerts at various churches and venues across America.

Eva Mae is regularly seen on the Bill Gaither television specials and appeared at many of the Gaither Homecoming concerts across America. Rest assured, she continued to keep Bill on his toes, and he credits her with being the spark that really began the Homecoming Friends videos. Just ask anyone who knows them well, and they will quickly tell you that Bill rarely "gets anything" on the 'First Lady of Gospel'.

Eva Mae is Gospel Music's First Lady

Eva Mae LeFevre is a timeless classic in Southern Gospel Music. She carried a wonderful ministry begun over 80 years ago.

The LeFevre name has been an integral part of Southern Gospel Music since 1921. It was in that year that young Urias LeFevre, his brother Alphus, and their sister Maude, began singing in their hometown of Smithville, Tennessee. Simultaneously, about 200 miles away in South Carolina, Reverend H. L. Whittington was learning that one of the greatest assets he had in planting new churches was the talent of his four-year-old daughter, Eva Mae, at the piano and singing. Thirteen years later, in 1934, Urias LeFevre wed that same preacher's daughter, Eva Mae Whittington.

Eva Mae, Urias and Uncle Alf traveled the highways for the Lord for more than 40 years, becoming one of the most beloved of Southern Gospel's singing groups. J. D. Sumner once said, "The first lady to change the world of Gospel Music was Eva Mae LeFevre . . . Eva Mae was the pioneer and set the standard . . . " Eva Mae was honored as the very first "Queen of Gospel Music", and then remarkably was given the same accolade 22 years later! Then another 22 years later, a 2000 cover of The Singing News proclaimed her "Southern Gospel's First Lady."

In 1978, Eva Mae became the first living woman inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, followed by induction in 1988 into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame - the very first inductee from the Gospel Music field. And yet, this Grammy nominee is quick to remind delighted audiences all over the country, "I'm just plain country Eva Mae."

Urias and Alf retired from full time road work with the LeFevres in the mid-1970s, and Eva Mae tried to retire in 1977. Spreading the Gospel in song had become so much a part of her life, Eva Mae found little happiness in retirement. After Urias' death in 1979, people everywhere encouraged her to continue her ministry. Her good friend, and long time LeFevre bass singer, Rex Nelon, had been carrying on the LeFevre's work, a legacy that is carried on today by Rex's daughter, Kelly Nelon and The Nelons.

Since 1985, Eva Mae had been again working the road for the Lord. She delighted audiences all around the country with her moving testimony, recounting the many joys and trials that have made up her life, and with her marvelous sense of humor and signature laugh that is so familiar to any fan of Southern Gospel music.

Eva Mae frequently reminded us that she continues her ministry because, "When I go to heaven, I want to take somebody with me." Her innovative program is one you didn't want to miss. Her talents, her personal experiences with the Lord, and her wonderful humor are interwoven to created a delightful experience for audiences in churches and concert halls across America.