Gospel Music Pioneer and Northern California Chapter of GMWA Organizer Dr. Helen J.H. Stephens dies

On of gosel music’s pioneers has passed on. GMWA National Board of Directors member emeritus Dr. Helen J. H. Stephens passed away peacefully,  Saturday, May 3, 2014. Ms. Stephens is also the mother-in-law of  Lynette Hawkins of the famed Hawkins Family.

A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Lady Stephens’ early musical instruction began at the age of 4, later accepting her first pianist position at 13 years old. After completing her degree at Dillard University in 1949, Helen married Arnold E. Stephens (1927-2009) in 1950 and shortly thereafter moved to California in 1953.

In 1965, she organized the “Stephens Singers,” and later organized the “The Voices of Christ” of Berkeley, California in 1969 with 23 members, which later grew to include 92 members the following year. Additionally, in 1979, Stephens founded “The Lighthouse Singers,” an interdenominational community-based gospel choir in Marin County, California..

Lady Stephens traveled nationally with the late Rev. James Cleveland, and is most notably known as the organizer and long-serving Chapter Representative of the Northern California Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA), officially retiring in 2013. At the time of her passing, Lady Stephens remained an Emeritus member of the GMWA National Board of Directors.

The family released the following statement:

“The Stephens Family wishes to thank everyone for their outpouring of love and prayers. Her passion was more than vocation – she used her gifts to their full potential, and as a result, her trailblazing contributions are forever etched in Gospel Music’s timeline. We ask for your continued prayers during this difficult time.”

Condolences can be sent to: The Stephens Family, 4968 Buckboard Way, El Sobrante, CA 94803.

Homegoing  details for Dr. Helen J.H. Stephens are pending.

Sarah Hearn
the authorSarah Hearn
Sarah Hearn is Editor-in-Chief of, founded in 2011. The site was recently named among Feedspot's Top Gospel and Christian Music Websites.  Sarah is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Gospel Music Association.
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