HEFLIN, La. (BP)–As a young boy, B.B. McKinney’s mother reminded him always to mean the words he sang.
Years later, McKinney stood in front of 10,000 Baptists to lead them in singing “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go,” one of the many songs he had penned.
As the singing ended, McKinney leaned toward the microphone and whispered the lesson he had learned well.
“Be sure that you mean the words you sing,” he reminded.
Tim Boyet recounted the instance in a 1962 article in HomeLife magazine.
“That is a presence that has got to be awesome — just to stand in front of 10,000 people and speak softly,” said Boyet, minister of music at Bistineau Baptist Church in Heflin, La., who recently joined McKinney’s family and friends in honoring the famed Southern Baptist musician at the annual B.B. McKinney hymn sing on July 22 at Bistineau Baptist Church.
McKinney was a Louisiana native who became a prominent Southern Baptist leader in church music. He died in a 1952 car accident.
Bistineau was the childhood church home to McKinney, who had a hand in writing more than 500 hymns and gospel songs, many familiar to Southern Baptists.
“If you’re a Southern Baptist and you love the Lord, you know who B.B. McKinney is,” Bistineau pastor Everett Geis noted. Geis sang McKinney’s “I Am Satisfied With Jesus” at the recent sing.
Several of the 10 family members present sang their favorite hymns as well, in addition to the congregational singing of many McKinney favorites.
Mark Smith, McKinney’s great-nephew, sang “Wayfaring Stranger,” a favorite of the man known to his family as “Uncle Ben.”
“B.B. liked to sing it when he was at a gathering,” said Smith, who never had the opportunity to meet his great-uncle.
McKinney’s nephew, J.C. Davis, sang “When the Morning Comes,” a family favorite. Davis previously served as music minister at Bistineau for 24 years.
“I’m sure the Lord was speaking to B.B. McKinney when he wrote the song,” Davis said of the selected tune.
Guests at the annual hymn sing used the Broadman Hymnal that McKinney edited while working for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board. McKinney served as the board’s first secretary of the department of church music.
During McKinney’s tenure, the board started an annual Church Music Week at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Baptist conference center, established the position of secretary of music in each state Baptist convention, developed the church music training course and started publishing the Church Musician magazine.
Baylus Benjamin McKinney was born on July 22, 1886, in Heflin, and attended Mount Lebanon Academy and Louisiana College in Pineville. He also attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, the Siegel-Myers School of Music and the Bush Conservatory of Music, both in Chicago.
McKinney also served as music editor for Robert Henry Coleman, a Dallas songbook publisher, for several years. During that time he taught at Southwestern Baptist Seminary and served as assistant pastor of a local church.
He died in 1952 after suffering injuries in a car accident — but his legacy remains in more than 500 compositions he wrote, edited or adapted.
The group that gathered for the recent annual hymn sing in McKinney’s honor sang such favorites as “The Nail Scarred Hand,” “Have Faith in God,” “Let Others See Jesus in You,” “Satisfied With Jesus,” “Speak to My Heart,” “Breathe On Me,” “‘Neath the Old Olive Trees” and “God, Give Us Christian Homes.”
And in fitting fashion, before leading the group in “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go,” Boyet emphasized what McKinney learned well from his mother.
“Let’s mean these words,” he said.
Whitlow is a summer intern at the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.