Evangelist Maggie Ingram makes transition

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

GMF is sad to report that Evangelist Maggie Ingram, likely the oldest active female singer on the gospel quartet circuit, has passed from labor to reward, less than two weeks shy of her 85th birthday (July 4).  Radio announcer Grace Rhodes of Rhodes Productions passed along the news earlier this evening (Tuesday, June 23). 

Evangelist Ingram was the matriarch and lead singer of The Ingramettes, a group that initially consisted of her five children John, Lucious, Tommie, Almeta, and Christine, whom she taught to harmonize.  Her husband and the children’s father, Thomas Jefferson Ingram, was a young preacher and their musical gifts were a help to his ministry. 

Among Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes’ classic recordings are “Family Prayer,” “Like A Ship,” “Miami Riot,” and “The Richmond Flood.”  The group’s current release, Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes: Live in Richmond, was recorded in 2011 and was billed as their final “live” recording.

Despite humble beginnings and no formal musical training, Evangelist Ingram emerged as one of the most beloved female quartet singers along the East Coast with multiple performances at The Kennedy Center, The Richmond Folk Festival, and regular ministry outreach to incarcerated individuals and their families.  And despite having earned the equivalent of a third grade education, she served as guest lecturer along with her daughter Almeta at the University of Virginia in 2010; was awarded the honorary Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from Virginia Triumphant College and Seminary in 2011; and conducted a master class along with the Ingramettes at The College of William and Mary in 2013.

Please join GMF in lifting Evangelist Ingram’s family, friends, the Ingramettes, and the gospel quartet community in prayer.  You may visit Wilson & Associates’ Funeral Service, Inc. for homegoing information.

Maggie Ingram Mother's Day Celebration Recap: Daughter Almeta reflects

By Libra Boyd, Founder & Editor
Gospel Music Fever 


Although open to the public, modest was the number who weathered Saturday evening’s messy, rainy conditions to celebrate Evangelist Maggie Ingram, matriarch and lead singer of Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes, at Danville, VA’s Greater United Apostolic Church.  At 84 years of age, Maggie, hailed Virginia’s “Queen of Gospel,” is likely the oldest active female singer on the gospel quartet circuit.   

The pre-Mother’s Day service was presented by Patrick Street for Street Productions, LLC and emceed by Twonda Johnson with performances by David Wilson, the Heavenly Stars, and the Loving Sisters.  GMF’s Libra Boyd gave biographical reflections.

During the celebration, the evangelist was praised for her commitment to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ for over a half century as well as for her ongoing efforts to strengthen struggling families in her community. Notable is the gravity of sacrifices for her own five children–which eldest daughter Evangelist Almeta Ingram-Miller frequently recounts–along with her compassion and advocacy for others, especially the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.  A third grade education, vigorous work ethic (hewn in part from Maggie’s upbringing on Mulholland’s Plantation in Coffee County, GA), and God-given musical talents of singing, songwriting, and playing the piano with no formal training have worked together in service to God and His people. 

“This is a woman that I’ve seen sacrifice,” Almeta shared candidly Saturday night. “There are five of us [children].  When God gave her a [new] house, we thought it was just for us, [but] women would be released from prison and have little babies and nowhere to go. Mama would make us double up in a room [and then tell the women], ‘Come on Baby, bring your babies; you can stay here til you get on your feet. You can stay here til you find a job.'”  Maggie didn’t just open her home as a “halfway house,” but she worked to initiate legislation permitting inmates at minimum security prisons to interact with their children through “family day” programs. 
While Almeta talks, Maggie affirms.  Both look at and cheer on each other adoringly.  When they are onstage, the chemistry between Maggie and each of her Ingramettes is simply beautiful.  Nowadays, Almeta tag teams with her mother on most of the group’s tunes.  Granddaughter Cheryl Beaver and close family friend Valerie Stewart provide supporting fiery vocals while the band blazes in the background.  Sometimes Maggie takes cues from Almeta; other times, she gives them with raised eyebrows, clasped hands and a head nod, or a reassuring smile followed by “I got it” or “Tell it, Baby.”  Between songs, Almeta’s storytelling gives Dot Norwood’s a run for its money.  One anecdotal narrative in particular reveals the heart of the Ingramettes’ music ministry:

We’ve sung to ten thousand [at the Kennedy Center], and we’ve sung to ten.  As a matter of fact, we went down to Raleigh…and the lady forgot she had booked the program…and so we were getting ready to pack up and go home.  Mama said, ‘Oh no! Set up every keyboard, set up every drum, set up the guitars and the bass.  Set up the microphones–because God has been good. And for this one lady, we’re gonna sing to the glory of God.’

Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes’ current CD, Live in Richmond, is available at www.virginiafolklife.org and according to the group’s bio, is set to be archived at the Smithsonian Institution.

Check out GMF’s Facebook page for photo highlights of this weekend’s service.


Top photo: ‘To the glory of God’Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes, (from left): Valerie Stewart, Almeta Ingram-Miller, Maggie Ingram, and Cheryl Beaver.