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Richmond Virginia Chapter History

The purpose of the association was to perpetuate, promote and advance the Christian ideal through the medium of gospel music by converging gospel choirs, choruses and analogous entities and affiliates throughout the United States of America into a volunteer network for education, cooperation, promotion and communication of ideas and ideals pertaining to all aspects of the gospel music field.



The organization incorporated and changed its name to reflect that change. It became the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Inc. Its first convention was held in August, 1968, at the King Solomon Baptist Church at 14th and Marquette Streets and the Masonic Temple at 500 Temple Street, Detroit, Michigan. It attracted more than 300 gospel music lovers.This convention worked year-round to develop a national network of those interested in the promotion of gospel music at a time when many churches would not even allow the singing of gospel music at their Sunday morning worship services. During this series of meetings Rev. Cleveland encouraged Virginia’s own Rev. Vernon S. “Billy” Lee to embrace the vision and start a chapter in Virginia. Meanwhile, here in Richmond, Sis. Helen Green was blessed with her own vision to bring together church choirs, artists and community choirs under one umbrella for the development of gospel music. She shared her idea with her personal friend, recording artist Isaac Douglas, who suggested that she contact and partner with Rev. Billy Lee.Together, Sis. Green and Rev. Lee forged forward with the vision. They called a meeting of gospel enthusiasts at the Mount Olive Baptist Church, Bells Road, Richmond, VA. It was at this meeting that the decision was made to develop a local branch of the GMWA in the Richmond area.In May 1975, Rev Cleveland authorized the official creation of the Richmond chapter, and in February of 1976 the chapter was officially installed by national board member Edward Smith (Detroit, Michigan) at the Trinity Baptist Church, 3200 Fendall Avenue, Richmond, VA. Rev. Lee was named the State Representative. Sis. Green served as his assistant. Membership grew as word of this organization spread throughout the state.In March of 1976, during the Richmond chapter’s first annual board meeting, which was held in Tampa, Florida, national chairman Rev. Cleveland appointed Sis. Green as Richmond’s new leader. The name of the position changed from state representative to chapter representative. Sis. Green designated Bro. (now Min.) Theodore Durham as her assistant. In 1977, Min. Durham was elevated to the post as Richmond’s chapter representative, installed by national board member Sis. Shirley M. K. Berkley. Min. Durham chose Alex Fleming, Larry Kearney and Naomi Hall as his assistants. Sis. Hall served faithfully until her health began to fail, at which time Sis. Frances Russell was appointed to replace her.During Min. Durham’s tenure many new and exciting initiatives were birthed. They include instituting our first annual local workshop (currently called “citywide”), an annual Thanksgiving weekend tour, a Dean of Academics, and music coordinators; increasing the size of the chapter’s board of directors; and encouraging fellowship with other chapters at times other than at the national convention.In 1989, Min. Durham relocated to the Tidewater area. He recommended to Dr. Charles Fold, national board member and chairman of the chapter representatives, that Sis. Russell be appointed as his replacement. In 1990 Sis. Frances Russell was installed as the Richmond Chapter Representative by National Chapter Representative board member Ted Martin (Charlotte, N.C.) She named Theodore Dargon as her assistant representative. Under Sis. Russell’s leadership the chapter broadened the geographical scope of the annual Thanksgiving tour, established the position of business manager on the local board, invited the first female clinician for the annual mini-convention, forged a partnership between the chapter and The Richmond Symphony Orchestra, and served as host for the 2000 national Board of Directors’ meeting.It was in January of 2001 while the citywide committee was meeting at the First Baptist Church in preparation for the upcoming local mini-convention that news came of the sudden death of our esteemed leader, Frances Russell. We were devastated at this news.The night prior to Sis. Russell’s homegoing services, national Chairman of the Board Rev. (now Bishop) Albert Jamison (Brooklyn, NY), national Dean of Academics Charles Reese (Dayton, Ohio) and Min. Floyd Miles met over dinner with our chapter. They encouraged us to stay strong in the Lord. Bishop Jamison admonished us to continue in the efforts of our deceased leader. During that meeting he appointed Bro. Theoron Dargon as interim chapter representative, with Sis. Loletha Jermain (now Smith) and Sis. Francine Bryce as assistant representatives. After several days of meetings Bishop Jamison appointed Francine Bryce as Richmond’s new chapter representative, with Bro. Dargon and Sis. Loletha Smith as her assistants..We continue to grow and thrive as an organization!


The initial planners became the first Board of Directors, and the board’s first official meeting was held at the London Inn in Detroit, Michigan, with nightly services conducted at the Prayer Tabernacle Church.

29th Annual Cit ywide Music & Arts Workshop Mini-Convention

It was in 1967 that Rev. James Cleveland (1931-1991) called together musicians from across the United States to brainstorm on his idea to create a venue for gospel music presentations. He selected his invitees to these historical meetings based upon their contributions to the genre of gospel music, their visibility in the gospel music world, and the prominence of gospel music in their respective communities. It was from these informal gatherings that the Gospel Music Workshop of America Association was born, with a national convention motto of, “Where Everybody is Somebody.”

Richmond Virginia Chapter History  
Richmond Virginia Chapter History  

The purpose of the association was to perpetuate, promote and advance the Christian ideal through the medium of gospel music by converging g...