CLEVELAND — John Foxhall, one of the members of the Wings Over Jordan Choir, has died at 94.
What started in 1935 by Rev. Glenn T. Settle, of Gethsemane Baptist Church on East 79th Street, reached audiences around the world, becoming the first independently produced national and international radio program created by Black Americans.
There’s no legacy of Wings Over Jordan Choir without Foxhall, who was its president for more than 30 years. He started the Wings Over Jordan Alumni, keeping the voices of those before him alive and remembered.
Born in Cleveland, family members said Foxhall believed in education, had a strong work ethic, was a community activist, was religious and loved his wife of 68 years.
Wings Over Jordan made significant contributions to choral music and the improvement of race relations during segregation. It was considered a forerunner in the Civil Rights movement. In recent years, the alumni group kept the struggles Black Americans face today at the forefront of its music.
An article from Lee Harvard Times said that Settle refused to allow the choir to sing if Blacks were not permitted to sit on the main floor of the concert hall. On occasion, the choir was jailed for not following segregation policies.
“Often, it became necessary to broadcast from nearby Black colleges," the article said. "This was done to assure that local Blacks could attend the broadcast when local station owners would not change their segregation policy."
At its height, the choir performed before sold-out, non-segregated audiences in over 40 states, five European countries, Canada and Mexico.
During World War II, it toured Army camps in Europe and received an invitation to sing at the White House.
The legacy of the nationally recognized group that began in Cleveland will be remembered thanks to Foxhall.