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Remembering The Maryland Roots Of An American Gospel Legend

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Charles Albert Tindley is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of American Gospel Music. Some historians are concerned the legacy of one of the region’s most accomplished native sons could be fading.

You may not have every heard of Rev. Charles Albert Tindley before, but you have likely heard his work — Elvis Presley one of Tindley’s most famous hymns: Stand By Me.

Tindley has been called one of the founding fathers of American Gospel Music and the prince of preachers for his community leadership in Philadelphia in the early 1900s, when poverty crippled countless African Americans in the city. Many historians believe Tindley was one of the first church leaders to start soup kitchens, organize clothing drives, and use the church as a temporary shelter for the poor and despondent.

In addition, Tindley’s famous hymn “I'll Overcome Someday," was the primary inspiration for the most famous song of the Civil Rights Movement: We Shall Overcome.

But some historians believe Tindley’s legacy is fading and one part of Tindley’s life is in danger of being forgotten, and that’s the fact that Charles Albert Tindley, was born in Berlin, Maryland, on July 7, 1851.

“His legacy as far as I'm concerned should never end," says Gabriel Purnell, a local historian in Berlin. "We should have more that would point to him."

Purnell says there should be a Tindley monument in Berlin, just like the one that stands in Philadelphia, and at the very least he believes the older generation needs to do a better job at passing the story of one of the shore’s most famous African American sons down to the younger generations, because legacy can’t live on, if no one is telling the story.

And Purnell believes that if Charles Albert Tindley’s story continues to be told, maybe we'll understand why it matters a little better, by and by.

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