Dr. Wendell P. Whalum, Sr. (1931 ~ 1987)
Wendell Phillips Whalum, Sr., the third of five children of the late Thelma T. and H. David Whalum, was born on September 4, 1931, in Memphis, Tennessee. When he was a very young boy, his musical talent, which was nurtured by his parents, was evident. He played for Avery Chapel A.M.E. Church, Central Baptist Church and Providence A.M.E. Church, all located in his hometown. In 1948, Dr. Whalum graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis and entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College in 1952, the Master of Arts degree from Columbia University in 1953, and the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Iowa in 1965. The University of Haiti conferred upon him the Doctor Honoris Causa in 1968. After joining the faculty of Morehouse College in the fall of 1953, Dr. Whalum was appointed Director of the Morehouse College Glee Club, succeeding the late Kemper Harreld. The Glee Club earned national and international acclaim during Dr. Whalum's 34 years of leadership. In spite of numerous attractive offers of positions at major college and universities, he chose to remain at Morehouse where he spent his entire professional career and achieved an enviable record as a professor, director of both Band and Glee Club, Chairman of the Music Department, and Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Music. He was elected Faculty Representative to the Morehouse Board of Trustees and the National Alumni Association. He was also a Merrill Faculty Travel-Study Grant Abroad recipient and a Danforth Fellow.
Dr. Whalum achieved international recognition as teacher, organist, conductor, musicologist, arranger, composer, author and lecturer; and he traveled extensively throughout the United States and abroad. In Bonn, Germany, he studied the origin and the intricate construction of the pipe organ. He performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as an organ soloist in 1968, and he prepared the chorus for the world premier of the opera Treemonisha in 1972. During that same year, he took the Glee Club on a State Department tour of five countries in West and East Africa. He also prepared the Morehouse College Glee Club and the Atlanta University Center Community Chorus for numerous appearances with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and he conducted at major music centers, including the Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center.
Through his involvement in and contributions to the community, Dr. Whalum reached legendary fame. He organized and directed the Atlanta University Center Community Chorus and was co-director of the Morehouse-Spelman Chorus. Because he was always extremely interested in quality church music, he accepted positions as organist-choirmaster for several Atlanta churches: Providence Baptist Church; Allen Temple A.M.E. Church, at which he was a member and trustee; Ebenezer Baptist Church; and Friendship Baptist Church, where he was serving at the time of his passing. His superior performance on the piano and organ revealed the standard of excellence that he demanded of others. He was constantly selected as a music consultant, as a member of evaluation committees, as a conductor or workshops, and as a lecturer throughout the United States and abroad. He held memberships on advisory boards of numerous music and civic organizations. The walls of his home are filled with plaques and certificates of honor and appreciation.
Along with holding memberships in eighteen professional organizations and learned societies, Dr. Whalum created an immense variety of musical arrangements and published numerous articles and chapters in books. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, American Guild of Organists, National Humanities Faculty, National Society of Literature and the Arts, Music Educators National Conference, Georgia Folklore Society, Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Intercollegiate Musical Council.
Dr. Whalum possessed the rare mixture of intellect, common sense and humility. He was truly one who could "...walk with kings, but keep the common touch." His deep religious heritage showed in his daily relationships with his students, colleagues, friends and family. Above all, he was generous, warm, cheerful, charitable and committed to excellence and service. Dr. Whalum's capacity as a storyteller was unparalleled, for he has the unique ability to mesmerize his audiences with an unending reservoir of historical interpretations. Equally infectious, however, was his sense of humor, his incisive wit, and his indomitable spirit. So personable was he that all who came to know him also came to love him as "a member of the family."
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